I got my first shot of the Gardasil vaccine about a month ago. I haven’t had sex before. I’m going to get my 3rd shot in 5 months…

Can I have protected sex before I get my 3rd shot, or is it not worth the risk?

First of all, it’s great that you’re taking charge of your sexual health!

Gardasil is a vaccine to protect you from HPV, the Human Papilloma Virus.  Gardasil is approved for girls and women, and men and boys ages 9-26 years old. It is given in a series of three shots. Gardasil covers types 6,11,16,18 — the strains of HPV which account for about 70% of cervical cancer cases and 90% of genital warts.

Know that there is risk in everything that you do. Abstinence is the only way to 100% prevent STIs and pregnancy. Using condoms and dental dams will help to reduce your risk of contracting an STI.

In the end, we can’t really advise you to wait or not to wait, but we can educate you on the risks and benefits. If you wait to have any type of sexual interaction until after you complete the series, know that you’ll be 70% protected you from the high risk strains of HPV (the ones that can lead to cervical caner), and 90% protected from lower risk strains like genital warts.

Even after you’ve completed the series though, Teen Clinic recommends using condoms and dental dams every time to help prevent STIs (especially because Gardasil is only helping protect you from HPV), and to think about using a birth control method to help prevent unplanned pregnancy.