Gardasil protects women against HPV, cervical cancer

With three doses given over a six-month span, the Gardasil vaccine provides the only known protection against human papillomavirus (HPV) and cervical cancer. The four types of HPV prevented by the vaccine are known causes of 70 percent of cervical cancer and 90 percent of genital warts cases, according to the Gardasil Web site.

Senior Kanika Metre, who has now received two of the three shots necessary for protection, said that the minor sting caused by the vaccination is certainly worth the peace of mind it provides.

“I don’t think the Gardasil shot was any more painful than most vaccine shots I’ve had,” Metre said. “So the question is, is a few seconds – maybe minutes – of discomfort worth severely reducing my chance of getting cervical cancer? Probably.”

Metre began the vaccination process in November at the suggestion of her mother, who she said was willing to assist with financing Gardasil. While Metre said that the price of the vaccine was significantly reduced by her health insurance provider, the Gardasil Web site encourages women to consult with their own providers before discussing vaccination with a doctor.

The vaccine is given in three doses, the second dose coming two months after the first and the final shot four months after the second.

GW’s Student Health Services offers the vaccine. Students covered under the Student Health Insurance plan will pay $75 for each of the three shots. Students without coverage will pay $150 per dose.

“I can’t see why I wouldn’t get the second and third shot after paying for the first shot,” Metre said. “The mild hassle of having to make a second appointment doesn’t seem that big of a deal to me.”

Although most patients do not report side effects, the Gardasil Web site does warn users of some side effects, including headache, fever, nausea, dizziness, vomiting and fainting. According to the Centers for Disease Control, as of June 2008, .06 percent of users had reported adverse effects of Gardasil. Of these reports, 94 percent were classified as non-serious.

The Centers for Disease Control approved the use of the vaccine in June 2006, affirming the success of Gardasil as a preventive measure against “the types of HPV that cause most cases of cervical cancer and genital warts.” The vaccination is recommended for girls between the ages of 11 and 13, and women through the age of 26 are encouraged to be vaccinated.

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