The best way to prevent genital warts is to prevent HPV, the virus that causes genital warts. Getting an HPV vaccine provides protection against infection by certain types of HPV.
Even after getting genital warts or another type of HPV, the vaccines can still be taken to help prevent infection by other types of HPV. Vaccination does not help clear an existing HPV infection or make genital warts disappear.
The HPV vaccines work by administering an inactive form of HPV into your body. Your body responds to this inactive form by making antibodies against the HPV virus, thereby forming immunity against the types of HPV the vaccine is effective against.
Current Canada guidelines recommend that all people receive the HPV vaccine by age 12. It is also recommended that men who have sex with men and trans women be vaccinated as they have an increased rate of HPV and other STIs.
2 Doses: Ages 9-14
Vaccines for HPV are given as two separate doses spaced 6-12 months apart for individuals who receive their first dose between the ages of 9-14.
3 Doses: Ages 15-45, Immunocompromised
Individuals receiving their first dose between the ages of 14-45 will receive three doses, within the span of 6 months. Immunocompromised individuals of any age should also receive the three-dose vaccine schedule.
The second dose is usually given 1-2 months after the first, and the third dose is administered 6 months after the first dose.
Health Canada currently has two approved HPV vaccinations which protect against genital warts caused by low risk HPV types 6 and 11:
Gardasil® (HPV4) – which protects against HPV types 6, 11, 16 and 18
Gardasil®9 (HPV9) – which protects against HPV types 6, 11, 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52 and 58
In people who have never been infected with HPV types contained in the vaccine, both Gardasil® and Gardasil®9 have been shown to prevent approx. 90% of genital warts.
People with vaginas aged 16-26:
People with penises aged 16-24:
Gardasil®9 (HPV9) provides the most holistic protection against the most different types of HPV including the strains (6 and 11) which cause genital warts.
Talk to your healthcare provider about the different vaccines choices available to determine which one is best for you.
Side effects of the vaccine can include:
The HPV virus which causes genital warts is passed by intimate skin-to-skin contact, which can include oral, vaginal, or anal sex.
If you have a genital wart after being exposed to transmission, ensure it is covered by a condom during sexual contact. Sometimes, genital warts can be located in areas that cannot be covered by condoms.
Because genital warts can be transmitted just through skin-to-skin contact, protecting against it can be more difficult. But condoms and safer sex practices will help lower your chances of spreading or getting genital warts.
HIV-positive individuals with HPV types that cause genital warts (usually 6 and 11) experience an increased likelihood of developing genital warts. Those with HIV may also have more difficulty in treating genital warts and have more frequent reoccurrence of genital warts after treatment.
HPV cannot be treated, but genital warts can be removed by using chemicals, laser surgery, freezing with liquid nitrogen, or prescribing topical medications.
Genital warts themselves are not transmittable. But the HPV virus which can lead to warts is highly contagious & transmitted by direct skin-to-skin contact.