By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Gardasil is a relatively new vaccine used to prevent the spread of the human papilloma virus (HPV). By protecting against HPV infection, Gardasil reduces the prevalence of complications associated with the infection such as the development of cervical cancer, vaginal or vulvar cancer, penile and anal cancer, precancerous changes in the cervix, throat cancer and genital warts.
Estimates show that almost all sexually active individuals acquire this infection at some point in their lives. However, most people do not develop symptoms and in this respect HPV presents a major public health crisis because people can unknowingly pass the condition onto their sexual partners. Most organizations recommend that the vaccine is administered to children at around 9 to 12 years of age, before they have become sexually active.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this vaccine has been tried and administered in thousands of females between the ages of 9 and 26 who have never been exposed to the virus through sexual activity.
With this widespread use of the vaccine, the United States Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) and the CDC have come to the conclusion that the vaccine is safe.
It does not contain components that induce severe side effects such as thiomersal, mercury or live or dead virus particles. It only contains virus-like particles that can multiply within the human body to stimulate immunity by triggering the production of antibodies against the virus.
Adverse effects that are seen with the vaccine include pain at the injection site, joint and muscle pain, tiredness, weakness, headache, fever, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, chills, flu-like symptoms and generally feeling ill (malaise).
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc
Last Updated: Jul 11, 2014