For four years, Student Health Services (SHS) has offered women the Gardasil vaccine to help prevent cervical cancer caused by strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV).
Now, men can get the vaccine, too.
A man, without showing any symptoms, may carry a cervical cancer-causing strain of HPV and sexually transmit it to a woman, said Egilda Terenzi, medical director of SHS. “Men can help protect women by getting the vaccine.”
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the U.S., and HPV infection causes most genital warts, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Men can protect themselves against the two types of HPV that cause about 90 percent of genital warts cases, said Holly Rayko, assistant director of Health Promotion at SHS.
After a study by the FDA, the vaccine was approved for men last month. The study showed Gardasil was almost 90 percent effective in preventing genital warts caused by those two types, according to the FDA’s Web site.
Gardasil covers four types of genital HPV, Rayko said. It is the only cervical cancer vaccine that helps protect women and men against those types, according to gardasil.com.
Two types are cancer causing and play a role in about 70 percent of cervical cancer cases, while the other two are wart-causing, Rayko said.
Each year, two of every 1,000 men in the U.S. are diagnosed with genital warts, according to the FDA.
For female and male students older than 19, Gardasil costs about $140 per shot at SHS.
Rayko said it costs closer to $180 per shot elsewhere.
Through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Vaccines for Children Program, female students under the age of 19 who are not covered for HPV vaccination by their health insurance can get Gardasil for free at SHS, Terenzi said.
The vaccine was originally targeted for women ages 9 to 24, Terenzi said.
Every year, about 12,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with cervical cancer and about 4,000 die from it, according to the CDC.
According to the CDC, most people will get some type of HPV during their lives.
Terenzi said it’s important to understand that the vaccine only protects against four of over 30 strains of HPV.
Abstinence is the only way to prevent HPV, according to the CDC, as the vaccine will not prevent all cases of cervical cancer and condoms may not fully protect against HPV.