The HPV vaccine is made up of virus-like particles (VLPs), which are made up from proteins on the surface of HPV. This may sound crazy- why would we give you parts of the virus when we don’t want you to get the virus?
First of all, VLPs do not cause disease. Viruses such as HPV become infectious and cause disease when their DNA is replicated, which is not part of the vaccine. Without the DNA, these particles have no way of forming the whole virus and, as a result, have no way of causing an infection.
Secondly, exposing your body’s immune system to something that looks like the virus teaches it to respond faster when it sees the real virus, just like you practice sports, dance, or any other hobby to get better at it. The first time the immune system seems a VLP, it reacts slowly. It takes time to realize that this is a foreign substance to the body, and to generate an immune response to get rid of it. However, it remembers what this particle looks like. If you are ever exposed to HPV in the future, your immune system is ready. It will jump into action and…
Good work, immune system.
To read more about how the HPV vaccine works, check out these links:
http://www.health.govt.nz/your-health/conditions-and-treatments/diseases-and-illnesses/cervical-cancer/hpv-immunisation/about-hpv-vaccine (this link also talks about vaccine safety, which will be discussed soon)
To find out where you can get the HPV vaccine, click here: https://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/cdph/supp_info/clinical_health/hpv-vaccine-is-cancer-prevention.html
Remember, if you are 18 years or old, you do NOT need a parent’s permission to get the vaccine.
For more information about HPV, click here: http://kidshealth.org/en/teens/hpv-vaccine.html