Is the HPV Vaccine Ineffective for Black Women?

Bad news from the war against HPV, the number one most prevalent STD in the United States.

A recent study found that popular HPV vaccinations, like Gardasil, don’t target the types of HPV most often found in women with African ancestry.


While there are many different types of HPV, only certain types can go on to cause more dangerous diseases, like cervical cancer. There are four types of HPV that Gardasil protects against: 16, 18, 6, and 11. The second most popular vaccination, Cervarix, only protects against strains against strains 16 and 18.

The cervix is part of the uterus (also known as the womb). While HPV can cause other forms of cancer, it most commonly causes cervical cancer, which puts women at a great risk if they contract the disease.

So, why are more African-American women dying of cervical cancer? Because they contract types 16 and 18 far less frequently than white women. In fact, they contract them about half as often as white women.

When the vaccinations were first being created, researchers did a study to see which types of HPV were most prevalent in leading to cervical cancer. The four types above were labeled Enemy #1 without regards to who was being most effected and the sad result of that is shown in this most recent study. They are the most prevalent ones, perhaps, but they aren’t the only ones that lead to cancer. In fact, the most common ones for African-American women are types 33, 35, 58, and 68.

About 4,000 women die every year from cervical cancer– and African-American women are twice as likely to not survive their diagnosis as white women. This is a problem that needs to be fixed and it needs to be fixed soon. Why? Because African-American women are the group second most likely to contract HPV in the United States, preceded only by Hispanic women.

Does this mean that African-American women shouldn’t get the HPV vaccine? Not at all. They can still contract– and get cancer from– types 16 and 18, just not as frequently as white women. Continued testing for vaccinations against other forms of HPV are being sought after as we speak, and the vaccine will still prevent those forms of HPV. Any protection is always the best– especially when it’s protection against a disease over half of sexually active American adults have.

This isn’t the first issue the HPV vaccine has seen and it probably won’t be the last. We reported recently that doctors and clinics weren’t giving HPV vaccines to those over the age of 26, even at-risk populations. Fellow writer Kara told of her experiences as a single, white woman over the age of 26 trying to get the shot.

Unlike Kara, I was given the three Gardasil shots before I went to college, not long after they first came out. If you have any questions about the vaccine, hit me up on our Tumblr blog.



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