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Should you get the HPV vaccine? Here’s what Discovery Pharmacy experts say

Did you know that some sexually transmitted diseases can lead to cancer? Darsh Shingala, Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) student at the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, and Jonathan Nhan, Pharmacist Lead at U of T’s Discovery Pharmacy explain what these infections are and what you can do to help protect your health.

Discovery Pharmacy provides personalized care and prescription medication services to all U of T students, staff, and faculty. To get your prescriptions at Discovery Pharmacy, book a New Prescription appointment today on the Discovery Pharmacy website.

What is the HPV vaccine?

HPV is short for human papillomavirus, a common sexually transmitted disease. While many HPV infections resolve on their own and do not lead to serious health concerns, certain strains of HPV can lead to cervical cancer in women, and other types of cancer in both men and women. The HPV vaccine is designed to prevent HPV infections by stimulating the immune system to provide protection against the virus and its potential complications.

What does it do?

Different strains of HPV can spread through sexual contact. Although most people who get HPV do not have symptoms, it can occasionally cause genital warts. Genital warts may become infected, but there are also more serious complications that can occur. One complication that can arise from HPV in women is the development of cervical cancer. For men, an HPV infection can increase the risk of penile cancer. It is also possible for both men and women to develop cancer in the back of the throat (known as oropharyngeal cancer) as a complication of an HPV infection.

Who should get the HPV vaccine?

The fact that HPV vaccines can help prevent infection and serious health conditions that might occure because of infection means that they are an important tool to help protect your health. In Canada, HPV vaccination typically happens in childhood and early teen years with children between 9 and 14 receiving two doses. Teens and younger adults who get the vaccine at later ages, between 15-26, should get 3 doses. If you are in this age-group and have not received the HPV vaccine, you can book an appointment to receive the vaccine through U of T’s Discovery Pharmacy.

If you are over the age of 26 and are interested in getting the vaccine, pharmacists at the Discovery Pharmacy are available to discuss if the HPV vaccine would be beneficial for you. People who should not receive the vaccine include pregnant women, moderate or – severely ill people, and people with allergies to yeast or latex should avoid the HPV vaccine.

What are the side effects?

The HPV vaccines are very safe and well tolerated by most people. Like many other immunizations, the most common side effects are soreness, swelling or redness at the site of injection. Fainting after the injection can occur as well. Other rare side effects include dizziness, headaches, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, or weakness.

How can I book an appointment or ask more questions?

You can book an appointment for the vaccination service through the Discovery Pharmacy website or get in touch with a pharmacist by scheduling a time for a consultation. These dedicated appointment times give you 1-on-1 access to a pharmacist to get answers to the questions that you have.

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