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The Gardasil vaccine is given to protect against four types of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). HPV is one of the most commonly carried viruses in the population, passed on through sexual transmission or skin contact, and although around 150 types are known, the majority are harmless. There are, however, several types that are linked to the development of cervical cancer, in particular types 16 and 18 which are known to cause cervical cancer. These two types are covered by the vaccine. In addition, Gardasil covers HPV types 6 and 11, which cause genital warts.
Currently, any female under 27 years of age is eligible for the vaccine, which is three injections into the muscle of the arm or buttock, given over six months. The vaccine is well tolerated, and particularly recommended to those who have had few or no sexual contacts.