An HPV vaccine has been available for 14 years, and you can read the CDC’s full recommendations here.
It’s the most common sexually transmitted disease and it impacts more than 14 million new people every year in the U.S. – the human papillomavirus (HPV), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And there are more than 120 of HPV types, but you can be protected from some of them by getting vaccinated.
“The vaccine is so important because not only can it prevent genital warts, but also cancers caused by HPV. These cancers caused by HPV can be 100% prevented by receiving the HPV vaccine,” explains Dr. Elizabeth Dickson Michelson, Gynecologic Oncologist at Aurora West Allis Medical Center in West Allis, WI. “We could decrease the number of cervical, anal, and some throat cancers substantially if we could get rid of some of the HPV that is out there with the vaccine.”
Dr. Dickson Michelson says if vaccinated between the ages of 9 – 14, you need a series of two shots. It jumps to a series of three between the ages of 15 – 26.
However, new research on the JAMA Open Network suggests one dose is better than none. The analysis found that those who had just a single dose of the HPV vaccine series showed higher rates of protection from HPV infection than those who weren’t vaccinated at all.
“If one shot will help to ramp up your immune system, then absolutely, one is better than none,” Dr. Dickson Michelson says about the study.
She recommends talking to your doctor if you have any questions about the vaccine to make sure it’s the right for you. Still, she says your best bet for protection against the disease and everything else associated with it is to get all the recommended doses.
“Recent studies show that one shot will give similar protection to two or three shots, but this data is very new and needs to be verified,” Dr. Dickson Michelson says. “The long-term effects are still not known, as the HPV vaccine is not very old. We don’t know if people may need booster shots or not.”