Practicing safe sex and using condoms are good ways of reducing your risk of contracting an STD. But another way of protecting yourself is getting vaccinated.
What vaccines are available for STDs? And are there new ones in development?
One STD vaccine you have probably heard about is the human papillomavirus, or HPV, vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that 20 million people in the United States have HPV, with six million more becoming infected each year.
There are several different types of HPV, many of which clear on their own. But certain strains of HPV have serious health consequences, causing genital warts, cervical cancer and other types of cancer, including vulvar cancer, anal cancer, vaginal cancer and penile cancer.
Two HPV vaccines are currently on the market: Gardasil and Cervarix. These two vaccines differ by the strains of HPV they protect against.
Gardasil is the more comprehensive of the two, vaccinating individuals against HPV types 6 and 11, which cause genital warts, and HPV types 16 and 18, which cause cervical cancer.
Cervarix vaccinates against HPV types 16 and 18. The vaccine is given in three doses.
Currently, the vaccines are approved for women between the ages of 9 and 26. Gardasil is also approved for men between the ages of 9 and 26. Unfortunately, the bid to increase the age of use of Gardasil to 45 years old for women was rejected, though some older women choose to get the vaccine off-label, meaning they must pay the full price of the vaccine out of pocket.
Vaccines are available for certain types of hepatitis, which is an inflammation of the liver. In most cases, hepatitis is caused by a virus, with the most common forms being hepatitis A, hepatitis B and hepatitis C, according to the CDC. Vaccines are available for hepatitis A andhHepatitis B, but currently not hepatitis C.
With hepatitis A, the virus is found in the blood and stool, and can be passed to another individual if she comes in contact with either item or consumes food or water that has been contaminated. Hepatitis A can also be spread through sexual contact in which there is contact between the anus and mouth.
The vaccine, called VAQTA or Havrix, is recommended for children older than 1 year of age and is administered in two doses. A version is available for adults, called Twinrix, which provides protection for both Hepatitis A and B. It is administered in three doses.
Hepatitis B is also spread through sexual contact. The virus can be present in semen and vaginal fluids, as well as blood and other bodily fluids. The hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for children as well and given in three doses.
MedlinePlus noted that the first dose is given before the infant leaves the hospital, though it may be given shortly after birth if her mother has hepatitis B. The second dose is given between the ages of 1 and 2 months, and the last dose is given at age 6 months.
The age of the second and third doses may vary if the infant does not get her first dose until she is 4 to 8 weeks old.
Adults can receive the hepatitis B vaccine alone, or the Twinrix vaccine that protects against both hepatitis A and B. Either series is given in 3 doses.
New Developments in STD Vaccines
Recently, an attempt was made to create a vaccine for both herpes simplex virus type 1 and herpes simplex virus type 2. Herpes simplex virus type 1, or HSV-1, typically causes cold sores, while herpes simplex virus type2, or HSV-2, typically causes genital herpes. But due to oral-genital contact, HSV-1 can cause genital herpes and HSV-2 can cause oral herpes.
The trial of the vaccine, the results of which were published in the New England Journal of Medicine included more than 8,300 women between the ages of 18 and 30 who were negative for HSV-1 and HSV-2.
The participants were randomly divided into two groups: one that received an experimental vaccine for herpes and another that received the hepatitis A vaccine. HealthDay News reported that the experimental vaccine was 58 percent effective for HSV-1 caused genital herpes, but not effective at all for HSV-2 caused genital herpes.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Genital HPV Infection – Fact Sheet. Web. 2 April 2012
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HPV Vaccine Information for Young Women – Fact Sheet. Web. 2 April 2012
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hepatitis Information for the Public. Web. 2 April 2012
MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Hepatitis A. Web. 2 April 2012
MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Hepatitis A – Vaccine. Web. 2 April 2012
MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Hepatitis B. Web. 2 April 2012
MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Hepatitis B Vaccine. Web. 2 April 2012
HealthDay. Potential Herpes Vaccine Disappoints Researchers. Web. 2 April 2012
Reviewed April 2, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith