What Happens If You Get Gardasil and Already Have HPV?

It’s a good idea to get vaccinated with an HPV vaccine (Gardasil or Cervarix) before you have a chance to actually get infected with HPV.

Why?

The HPV vaccine can’t protect you if you haven’t had it yet.

What Happens If You Get Gardasil and Already Have HPV?

It is still a good idea to get vaccinated with Gardasil (or Cervarix) if you have already been sexually active though, even if you know that you have an HPV infection already.

“Even if a patient previously has had an abnormal Pap test or history of genital warts, vaccination is still recommended.”

ACOG on Human Papillomavirus Vaccination

Why?

“…few sexually active young women are infected with all HPV types prevented by the vaccines, so most young women could still get protection by getting vaccinated.”

Will sexually active females benefit from the HPV vaccine?

Because these vaccines protect against you against multiple strains of HPV!

“The prevalence of abnormal cytology was lower in vaccinated versus unvaccinated women, despite receipt of vaccination after sexual debut. Continued assessment of HPV vaccine effectiveness before and after sexual debut on HPV infection and cervical dysplasia is needed.”

Brogly et al on Human Papillomavirus Vaccination and Cervical Cytology in Young Minority Women

Still, it is better to get vaccinated and protected when your kids are younger, before they are sexually active and before they are ever exposed to HPV.

Studies have also shown that preteens have the best immune response to the HPV vaccines, so not only is there no benefit to waiting, these vaccines likely work better when you give them on time.

On the other hand, if your kids aren’t already vaccinated and protected, even if they are already sexually active, whether or not they have HPV already, they should still get the HPV vaccine, especially as it is recommended that they routinely be given through age 26 years and they are now approved to be given to adults through age 45 years!

Will you get cervical cancer if you have HPV and get an HPV vaccine?

Maybe.

The HPV vaccines are preventative, not therapeutic vaccines, so they don’t treat any HPV infections that you already have. While the HPV vaccine you get if you already have an HPV infection is not going to increase your risk of developing cervical cancer from that infection, it isn’t going to cure you either.

Again, that’s why you ideally want to get vaccinated before you are ever exposed to HPV. Anyway, you should continue to have Pap tests, because the HPV vaccines don’t cover every HPV strain.

Anti-vaccine folks like to misuse the initial Gardasil clinical trials to say they that the vaccine increases your risk of getting cancer, but they leave out the fact that the association was only found in one study and that the women who were already HPV positive had more risk factors for developing cervical cancer.
Anti-vaccine folks like to misuse the initial Gardasil clinical trials to say they that the vaccine increases your risk of getting cancer, but they leave out the fact that the association was only found in one study and that the women who were already HPV positive had more risk factors for developing cervical cancer.

But no, HPV vaccines don’t increase the risk of developing cervical cancer for anyone exposed to HPV before they were vaccinated.

That’s an anti-vaccine myth.

More on Gardasil and HPV Carriers

One thought on “What Happens If You Get Gardasil and Already Have HPV?

  1. Thanks for writing this. Notice that in the figure the 95 percentile confidence interval crosses 0, that is in the lower right hand corner. So HPV vaccination has no effect on concurrent HPV infection.

    Liked by 1 person

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