Health A-Z

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There are two FDA approved vaccines against human papillomavirus, Gardasil and Cervarix. Both vaccines are approved for females to help prevent cervical cancer.

The general recommendation is to vaccinate 11 and 12 year old girls with either vaccine. Girls as young as 9 years old may receive the vaccine. A complete series consists of three shots over 6 months. The same vaccine brand should be used for all three shots. Both vaccines are also available for older girls and young women up to age 26.

Only Gardisil is approved to prevent genital warts. It is available to males as well as females. The age range to receive the Gardisil for boys and men is age 9 to 26.

Ideally, girls and young women should get all three HPV doses prior to becoming sexually active.

Other than abstinence, there is no definite way to prevent all HPV infections. To lower your risk as much as possible, always use condoms and other barrier methods, such as dental dams for mouth-to-genital contact, for protection. If you or someone you know has a wart, avoid skin-to-skin contact with the wart.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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