Animation: How the HPV vaccine works
Narrator: The HPV vaccine is provided free to students during their secondary school years to protect against a range of cancers and disease caused by HPV or Human Papillomavirus.
HPV is a really common virus that affects both males and females. HPV infection caused by four HPV types known as Type 6, 11, 16 and 18 can be prevented by vaccination.
HPV is passed from person to person through sexual contact. Most people will have the virus in their lifetime and most of the time won’t even know they have it because their immune system clears the virus. The problem is about 10% of people don’t clear the virus which can cause persistent infection and over the years, can cause HPV related cancers.
The vaccine works by using virus-like particles, not the actual virus, to trick the body into making antibodies that protect you from infection with the four types of HPV. At this age when you’re young, your immune system is really healthy and it produces fantastic antibody levels in response to the vaccine. But you need to receive all three doses of the HPV vaccine for the best protection. Each time your body receives the vaccine, it remembers a bit more about what to do if it meets the real virus.
When you receive the first dose of the HPV vaccine, this is the first time that your body has seen the vaccine, so it takes a little bit of time for your immune system to have a look at the vaccine and respond to it by creating antibodies to HPV.
After the second dose your body starts to remember that it has seen this vaccine before and you’ll get a boost in antibodies from your immune system in response to the HPV vaccine.
The third and final dose is what helps your body bring together what it learnt after the first and second dose. It will produce another big boost of antibodies in response to the vaccine. It is this dose that will give you the long lasting protection from HPV. This means that in the future if the body comes in contact with the real HPV types that cause cancers and disease, it will know how to protect you from the virus.
If you really want to make sure you’re protected from cancers and disease caused by HPV, you need to make sure that you get your parents to sign a consent form and that you receive all three doses of the HPV vaccine.
For more information about the types of cancers HPV can cause or how the vaccination protects you, visit australia.gov.au/hpv.