Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccine

HPV vaccine is cancer prevention. Click for CDC poster.Each year, approximately 14 million people, including teens, become infected with Human Papillomavirus (HPV). The virus is so common, that most people become infected with HPV at some point in their lives. HPV is passed between people during skin-to-skin sexual contact. The vast majority of infections are cleared by the immune system within two years.

HPV infection can cause cancer.

If the virus is not cleared, certain types of HPV infection can cause cervical cancer in women and penile cancer in men. HPV can also cause throat cancer, anal cancer and genital warts in both men and women.

There is a vaccine.

The HPV vaccine protects against most cancers caused by human papillomavirus infections. This is the first vaccine developed to prevent a major type of cancer. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention recommends the HPV vaccine be given to boys and girls at age 11 or 12, in order to protect them before ever being exposed to the virus. The vaccine is licensed, safe, and effective for all males and females ages 9 through 26.

Questions and Answers about HPV

How common are the health problems caused by HPV?

HPV is the main cause of cervical cancer in women. There are about 12,000 new cervical cancer cases each year in the United States. Cervical cancer causes about 4,000 deaths in women each year in the United States. There are about 15,000 HPV-associated cancers in the United States that may be prevented by vaccines each year in women, including cervical, anal, vaginal, vulvar and oropharyngeal cancers.

There are approximately 7,000 HPV-associated cancers in the United States that may be prevented by vaccine each year in men, and oropharyngeal cancers are the most common. About 1 in 100 sexually active adults in the United States have genital warts at any given time.

Why should my child get the HPV vaccine?

This vaccine against Human Papillomavirus is for protection from most of the cancers caused by HPV infection. HPV is a very common virus that spreads between people when they have sexual contact with another person.

About 14 million people, including teens, become infected with HPV each year. HPV infection can cause cervical cancer in women and penile cancer in men. HPV can also cause anal cancer, throat cancer and genital warts in both men and women.

When should my child be vaccinated?

The HPV vaccine is recommended for preteen boys and girls beginning at age 11 or 12 so they are protected before ever being exposed to the virus. If your teen hasn’t gotten the vaccine yet, talk to their doctor about getting it for them as soon as possible. The vaccine is licensed, safe and effective for both males and females ages 9-26.

Is the HPV vaccine safe?

Yes. The safety of this vaccine was studied in clinical trials of 30,000 males and females before the FDA approved its license for the general public. Just like any other vaccine, it is continually monitored for side effects through the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System and the Vaccine Safety Database.

The most common side effects reported are mild and can include: pain where the shot was given, fever, dizziness and nausea.

Serious side effects from the HPV vaccine are rare. It is important to tell the doctor or nurse if your child has any severe allergies, including an allergy to latex or yeast. HPV vaccine is not recommended for anyone who is pregnant.

The HPV vaccine protects against the HPV types that cause most cervical cancers and anal cancers. It also prevents vulvar and vaginal cancers in women and genital warts in both women and men.

How effective is the HPV vaccine?

The HPV vaccine prevents four HPV types: HPV 16 and 18, which cause 70% of all cases of cervical cancer, as well as HPV t6 and 11, which cause 90% of genital warts.  The vaccine has also been shown to protect against cancers of the anus, vagina and vulva.

What is the recommended vaccine dosage and schedule?

Three doses (shots) are recommended over six months. CDC recommends that the second dose be given one to two months after the first, and the third dose be given six months after the first dose.

Does the HPV vaccine lead to sexual behavior?

No. The HPV vaccine does not lead to increased sexual behavior. Studies have shown that teens who are fully vaccinated against HPV do not have more sex or sexual partners than those who are not vaccinated.

A 2013 study of nearly 1,400 girls published in the journal Pediatrics concluded that: “HPV vaccination in the recommended ages was not associated with increased sexual activity–related outcome rates.”

More information

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

National HPV and Cervical Cancer Prevention Resource Center

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