Gardasil 9 vaccination – the Anti Cancer needle!


Dr Dimitri Andropov – TMA member in Darwin  

This year the Australian Government has announced a new and improved version of the ‘cervical cancer vaccine’.  Gardasil 9 vaccine will be available free to all 12 and 13-year-old students.  But what is this anti-cancer vaccine and how does it work?

 

The first thing to know about the Gardisil vaccine is that it’s not new.  The earlier versions of the Gardasil vaccine were first introduced to students in Australia in 2007 to help protect against some types of the Human Papilloma Virus, commonly known by the three letters: HPV

A papilloma is just a fancy medical term for a wart.  As you may know, there are many types of warts; common warts, plantar warts, flat warts, mouth warts and genital warts are just some. Common warts that you might see on your fingers or hands are produced by a different type of HPV the ones that cause warts in other parts of your body.

 

Toads do look ‘ warty’, but despite their warty appearance and popularity in fairy stories, touching (or kissing) frogs and toads does not cause warts (or princes) to appear!  Warts are caused by the body coming into direct contact with another person carrying the Human Papilloma Virus.

 

If you can have a vaccination before you come into contact with the HPV then you can help protect yourself again getting warts.

 

There are probably more than 80 different types of HPV, with more discoveries all the time.  Each type is given a number such as Type 1, 2 and so on.  The first four types: HPV 1,2,3 and 4 cause many of the warts that you might have had on the soles of your feet, the common warts on your fingers or the flat warts on your arms. Nine out of ten people have had HPV infection at some point in their lives and,  thank goodness, most HPV infections do not cause cancer. Common warts don’t grow into cancer.

 

Warts can also be found in other areas that are touched by other people, such as in sexual contact.  Warts that appear on the penis, vulva and vagina, cervix and anus are known as anogenital warts.  The cervix is hidden inside a woman’s vagina at the opening of her uterus or womb. Cervical warts and the cancers they cause cannot be normally seen without an examination by a Doctor – eg during a PAP smear visit.

 

HPV type 6 and 11 can be associated with genital warts.  However, HPV type 16 and type 18 are known to cause wart infection on the cervix in women. The wart infection in this area damages the cells and increases the risk of cancers which can grow  undetected.  PAP smears help to detect the early changes of this type of cervical cancer.

 

Gardasil 9 protects against nine HPV types: 6, 11, 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58.  A whopping five more than the previous vaccine!  It is given by a tiny intra-muscular injection in three doses over six months. Specifically HPV vaccine protects nine out of ten women from cervical cancer, and prevents  most of the genital cancers in men caused by HPV. Gardisil 9 also protects nine out of ten people from genital warts.

 

So, HPV is known to cause warts.  Genital warts are known to cause genital cancers including cervical cancer in women.  Therefore, using an HPV vaccine before you are sexually active, will mean you develop antibodies to the HPV so the immune system will kill it and it cannot hang around to make trouble like warts and cancer…Vaccination with Gardasil 9 therefore helps prevent cancer  – The vaccine in fact gives 93 per cent protection against these types of cancer.

( and who developed the Gardasil vaccine – an Aussie ( go Aussies!) – Professor Ian Frazer.  Worldwide, more than 200 million doses of Gardasil have been administered in 100 countries.)

Warning: Vaccinations will not however protect you against other sexually transmitted diseases or pregnancy – but perhaps this is blog for another time!

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