Debunking Common Myths about the HPV Vaccine

There have been so many misconceptions out there about common HPV vaccines like Gardasil. The fact that the first HPV vaccine became available in 2006 has contributed to lots of questions. This is a relatively new product that some people still misunderstand.

Confusion stems further from the fact that several types of vaccines are available, each one with its specifics. In Singapore, there are three officially recognised HPV vaccination options, Gardasil being one of them. Each of the vaccines has its specific characteristics and an ability to protect against a specific HPV strain.

Today, we will debunk some of the most common myths about the HPV vaccine and what it is and isn’t capable of doing.

Myth: All HPV Vaccines Are the Same

Fact: Untrue, there are different vaccines with specific characteristics

The HPV vaccination products available in Singapore are Gardasil 4, Gardasil 9 and Cervarix. This is not one and the same medical product, which is why you need to discuss the specifics of vaccination with a healthcare provider.

Gardasil is one of the most popular option in Singapore. Gardasil 9 is suitable for the vaccination of both boys and girls. It offers protection against the biggest range of HPV strains – HPV 6, 11, 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52 and 58. Many people fail realising there are different kinds of HPV viruses. While the number of strains exceeds 100, only 12 are high risk and capable of causing cancer.

Gardasil 4, as the name suggests, offers protection against the four most common strains of the virus – 6, 11, 16 and 18. As such, it is one of the most popular vaccination options in Singapore.

Gardasil in Singapore vaccination is preferred over the selection of Cervarix. Cervarix is only created for the needs of women and it offers protection against HPV strains 16 and 18 – the ones known to cause the vast majority of cervical cancer cases.

Choosing one vaccine or the other depends on the age of the recipient and the types of risks to get protection against. Typically, three injections have to be administered every six months. HPV vaccines are readily available in many healthcare facilities across Singapore, including Shim Clinic.

Myth: Only Girls Need the HPV Vaccine

Fact: Boys and men have been shown to consistently benefit from HPV vaccination

While cervical cancer is the most common malignancy that HPV causes, the virus is responsible for other types of cancer.

HPV can cause mouth and throat cancer through activities like kissing and oral sex. It’s also been shown that in rare cases, HPV can also contribute to the spread of penile cancer.

In addition, HPV causes genital warts that both men and women are vulnerable to. Thus, Gardasil Singapore vaccination is recommended for both boys and girls who haven’t become sexually active yet (due to the fact that they haven’t been exposed to any strains of the virus and the effectiveness of the vaccine is highest).

The HPV Vaccine Isn’t Safe

Fact: Studies from across the world show that vaccines like Gardasil are safe and well-tolerated

Just like any other new medical product, the HPV vaccine raises questions about safety.

The good news is that extensive trials and the observation of vaccinated individuals show no health risks.

A common misconception is that the HPV vaccine could cause infertility. There are no observations of people having their reproductive capabilities reduced due to the vaccine. Women who develop pre-cancer or cervical cancer due to HPV exposure, however, may have to undergo treatments that will limit their ability to have children.

Serious side effects and health issues have not been reported in connection to the vaccine. Mild rashes and irritation may occur topically. People who are allergic to components of the vaccine are the ones that may experience issues and will thus have to avoid immunisation.

HPV Vaccination Does Not Prevent Cervical Cancer

Fact:  The vaccine offers 100 per cent protection against the most dangerous HPV strains

Clinical trials show that HPV vaccines like Gardasil and Cervarix are 100 per cent effective in preventing infections with HPV types 16 and 18 (as well as the other strains that the respective vaccine targets).

In addition, studies among men show that HPV vaccination can eliminate some of the most common cell changes that have been linked to genital warts.

The HPV Vaccine Isn’t Worth Getting Because It Targets Only a Few Strains

Fact: The range of high risk HPV strains is actually limited, which means that the vaccine offers more than sufficient protection

As already mentioned, there are more than 100 types of HPV strains. Most of these viruses, however, are not dangerous and they will not lead to health problems after exposure.

The nine types of viruses that Gardasil 9 protects against have been established to cause more than 90 per cent of cervical cancers and more than 70 per cent of all anal cancer diagnoses. In addition, they offer highly reliable protection against genital cancer. As a result, targeting these nine strains is more than sufficient to give vaccinated individuals reliable protection.

HPV Isn’t That Common, I Don’t Need to Be Vaccinated

Fact: This is the most common type of sexually transmitted infection in the world

HPV infections are the most common type of sexually transmitted diseases in the world. In the US alone, 14 million new cases are registered on an annual basis.

The picture isn’t that much different in Singapore.

In 2019, the Singaporean Ministry of Health reported increased incidence of advanced cervical cancer diagnosis in women aged 30 or older. According to statistics, one in 10 healthy Singaporean women is infected with HPV (without having symptoms). Thus, the number of women in Singapore alone who are at risk of developing cervical cancer is 2.41 million.

Vaccines like Gardasil can save lives and there’s really no reason to refrain from getting vaccinated. Readily available in Singapore, these vaccines are a great choice for children and young adults under the age of 26. If you’re older, talk to your physician first since you may be a good candidate for vaccination.

Do you have questions about the HPV vaccine? The Shim Clinic professionals have the answers. Get in touch with us today (either online or by calling +65-6446-7446) or come to our clinic during working hours to learn more about the immunisation options.