HPV Vaccines

Last Modified: January 14, 2010


Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"

Are there any differences between the two vaccines and can you please comment on the side effects? The recent reports of side effects had some “TV doctors” saying they wouldn’t get their daughters vaccinated.


Christina S. Chu, MD, Assistant Professor of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology at the University of Pennsylvania Health System, responds:

Gardasil covers 4 types of HPV: 16, 18, 6 and 11.

Cervarix covers 2 types of HPV: 16 and 18.

HPV 16 and 18 are responsible for 70% of the cervical cancer in this country, and HPV 6 and 11 are responsible for 90% of genital warts.

Gloria DiLullo, MSN, CRNP, OncoLink Medical Oncology Educational Content Specialist, responds:

Both vaccines, Gardasil and Cervarix, available help prevent certain types of HPV and some of the cancers linked to those types of HPV (vulvar and vaginal). These vaccines prevent the 2 types of HPV (HPV 16 and 18) that cause 70% of all cervical cancers. Gardasil also protects against the 2 types of HPV (HPV 6 and 11) that cause 90% of all genital warts. The other types of HPV will NOT be prevented by use of vaccines. Gardasil has been approved to be given to women ages 9-26. Cervarix has been approved to be given to women ages 10-25.

Both vaccines have been tested in thousands of women between the ages of 9-25. Accroding to the American Cancer Society, By May 2009, more than 24 million doses of the Gardasil have been distributed in the United States and more than 40 million doses have been distributed world wide. More than 7 million doses of Cervarix were distributed worldwide as of May 2009.

Out of all the doses given, there have been very few side effects reported and very few serious side effects or deaths. The serious side effects and deaths reported are not clearly linked to the vaccine. In addtion, the reactions experienced are at the same or lower rates than most vaccines already tested and received by the general public. The most common side effects were redness, soreness, and swelling at the injection site. Other complaints included tiredness, headaches, stomach upset, and muscle aches after getting the vaccines—this was not in the majority of women who received the vaccines.

This question and answer was part of the OncoLink Brown Bag Chat Series, How Much Do You Know About HPV?. View the entire transcript here.