Gardasil is a vaccine that prevents the types of genital human papillomavirus (HPV) that cause most cases of cervical cancer and genital warts. Genital HPV is a common virus that is passed on through genital contact, most often during sex. Most sexually active people will get HPV at some time in their lives and will never even know it. It is most common in people in their late teens and early 20s. Most HPV types cause no symptoms and go away on their own. Some types can cause cervical cancer and other less common genital cancers in women. Other types of HPV can cause warts in the genital areas of men and women.
Every year, about 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer, and almost 4,000 women die from this disease in the U.S. Gardasil is approved for females between 9 and 26 years of age. We do not yet know if the vaccine is effective in boys/men. It is possible that vaccinating males may directly prevent genital warts and rare cancers in boys/men or indirectly prevent disease in girls/women. These direct and indirect effects are currently being studied. When more information is available, this vaccine may be licensed and recommended for boys/men as well.
Gardasil has been licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and approved by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as safe and effective. Thousands of females (ages 9 through 26 years) around the world have been studied, and its safety continues to be monitored by the CDC and the FDA. Studies have found no serious side effects. The most common side effect is soreness in the arm (where the shot is given). There have recently been some reports of fainting in teens after they received the vaccine. For this reason, it is recommended that patients wait in their doctor’s office for 15 minutes after getting the vaccine.