HPV is a very common virus that is spread during sexual activity through skin-to-skin contact with an infected person.
There are many different types of HPV. Some types of HPV can cause cervical, vulvar, vaginal, penile and anal cancer. Other types can lead to skin lesions such as genital warts.
Fortunately, infections from the most common cancer-causing types of HPV can be prevented with the HPV vaccine.
Most people with HPV do not develop any signs or symptoms and may not know they have been infected with HPV. But they still carry the virus and infect others.
Some people find out they have HPV when they get genital warts. Women may find out they have HPV following an abnormal cervical cancer screening (Pap test) result. Others may only find out once they've developed more serious health problems from HPV, like HPV-related cancer.
The HPV vaccine is a breakthrough in cancer prevention. The HPV vaccine used in Ontario is highly effective for the prevention of cancers caused by HPV types 16 and 18, which is associated with approximately 70% of cervical cancers, 92% of anal cancers, 63% of penile cancers and 89% of certain types of throat cancers. Almost 90% of genital warts are caused by HPV types 6 and 11 (included in the vaccine).
It is important to complete the recommended vaccine series for optimal protection.
For the majority of students who are eligible for the HPV vaccine, the vaccine is given in a series of two injections six months apart.
For those who receive their first dose after the age of 14 years, or who are immunocompromised (have a weakened immune system), the HPV vaccine is given in a series of three injections over a six-month period.
Students should eat breakfast or lunch before going to the school clinic for their immunization. They are also encouraged to wear short-sleeved shirts to allow for easy access to their arms. If there are any questions about the HPV vaccine, talk to your local public health unit.
Before students receive the vaccine, a public health nurse will ask about allergies, medications and general health.
Once the vaccine has been given, public health nurses will observe students to monitor for any reactions. Public health nurses are trained to recognize and manage side effects, including any severe allergic reactions.
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