The HPV vaccine works in the same way as other vaccines. The body reacts by making special proteins, called antibodies, which help the immune system fight and clear the high-risk types of HPV infection so they don’t cause cancer.
The vaccine works best for girls and boys who have not been exposed to the virus through sexual activity. However, the HPV vaccine can be given to adults up to 26 years of age.
In Ireland, the HPV vaccine is offered free of charge to all girls in their 1st year of second level school. The vaccine is given through injection into the upper part of the arm in two doses, six months apart, via a school-based programme. The vaccine can also be given to boys and in some countries is given to both genders to reduce the risks of several types of cancer.
If you are vaccinated, it does not mean that you no longer need smear tests. Because it is not known for how long the vaccine gives protection and it does not cover all the HPV types that cause cervical cancer, you must still continue with regular cervical smear tests as advised.
221+ Patient Support Group thanks the Irish Cancer Society for permission to use the text of their booklet Cervical Cancer, What You Should Know
and acknowledges the contribution of the original authors of the booklet.