What is Gardasil?®
Gardasil® is a vaccine used for the prevention of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) in both males and females, and is recommended for gay and bisexual men of all ages.
Gardasil® provides protection from the four most common strains of HPV infection, two of which (types 6 and 11) are commonly associated with benign genital warts. The other two common strains (types 16 and 18) are considered high-risk and are linked to some forms of cancer including anal, oral, penile, and cervical cancers. HPV types 6 and 11 are responsible for over 90% of genital warts, while HPV types 16 and 18 are responsible for about 70% of anal cancers.
Gardasil® 9 provides protection from the four strains covered by the original Gardasil® vaccine, but also five additional cancer-causing strains: types 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58. Due to the additional protection from Gardasil® 9, it is estimated that the updated vaccine provides coverage from approximately 90% of anal cancers.
Eligibility & Availability
Canada’s leading authority on vaccination policy, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), has recommended Gardasil® and Gardasil® 9 for gay and bisexual men of all ages.
Gardasil® and Gardasil® 9 are currently available to gay and bisexual men at most pharmacies, although may require a prescription. If you have an extended health insurance plan that covers the cost of your vaccination, you will need a prescription from your doctor.
Vaccination involves getting 3 shots over a period of about 6 months. While recommended for use, only some provinces have publicly funded Gardasil® for gay and bisexual men. Gardasil® costs about $150 per dose ($450 in total for the 3 required shots), while Gardasil® 9 costs about $180 per dose ($540 in total).
These costs may be covered through health insurance coverage from your employer or school, so check with your insurance provider to see if you’re covered, and if your coverage includes Gardasil® 9. Keep in mind that coverage varies between insurance companies and plans.
Gardasil® prevents infection of the four most common strains of HPV, which are linked to the development of genital warts and cancer (i.e. oral, anal, and penile cancers). The newly released Gardasil® 9 prevents five additional cancer-causing HPV types compared to the original vaccine.
It’s important to note that neither Gardasil® or Gardasil® 9 are a treatment or cure for existing HPV infection. However, even if you have been infected with HPV, getting vaccinated will protect you from getting the other commonly identified HPV types that you have not been infected with.
There’s some encouraging evidence from a small study that Gardasil® vaccination may also have some benefit in preventing the recurrence of pre-cancerous lesions in the anus. In this study looking at these recurrence rates, men who had been vaccinated had about half the rates of recurrence than those who had not been vaccinated.
Health Canada and many other regulatory bodies around the world have approved Gardasil® and Gardasil® 9 for the prevention of HPV infection among males and females. These decisions have been based on many clinical trials and studies demonstrating the safety of the vaccine.
Very few side effects of the vaccine have been reported, and the most common is temporary soreness at the site of injection, which is a common side effect of most vaccinations. If you have questions about possible side effects from Gardasil® or Gardasil® 9, talk to a pharmacist or doctor for more information.