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More people than ever now have access to a vaccine that can protect them from the most common sexually transmitted infection, HPV and its related health problems. Dr. Gregory Poland, who leads Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group, says the suggested age range for administering the HPV vaccine has been expanded, and he says it's critical for people to take advantage of the opportunity to get protection.
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No matter how careful you think you've been, you've probably had a sexually transmitted infection at some point. In fact, HPV is so common, that almost every single person will get it at some point in their lives.
"That's a stunning statement to say," Dr. Poland says. "Most of them will resolve that infection, but many will not. They will be left with untreatable genital warts or, later in life, develop a whole variety of cancers as a result of that viral infection."
But there is a vaccine that is extremely effective at preventing HPV. Until recently, only young people up to age 26 were able to get the vaccine. But Dr. Poland say that recently changed.
"Now that has been extended up to the age of 45," he says. "So there is no reason that anybody who is, or will become, sexually active should not get this vaccine."
Even if you think you're careful in your sexual practices, Dr. Poland says the odds are you will get HPV unless you get the vaccine.
And it's not just HPV you'll be protecting yourself from.
"This is a vaccine, I like to tell people, against sexually transmitted cancer," Dr. Poland says. "That's its importance."
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