Should I Get the HPV Vaccine?
What is the HPV vaccine?
HPV vaccine is important because it protects against cancers caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. HPV is a very common virus; nearly 80 million people—about one in four—are currently infected in the United States. About 14 million people, including teens, become infected with HPV each year. HPV infection can cause:
- cancers of the cervix, vagina, and vulva in women;
- cancers of the penis in men; and
- cancers of the anus and back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils (oropharynx), in both women and men.
Every year in the United States, HPV causes 30,700 cancers in men and women. HPV vaccination can prevent most of the cancers (about 28,000) from occurring.
Who should get the HPV vaccine?
All kids who are 11 or 12 years old should get two shots of HPV vaccine six to twelve months apart. Adolescents who receive their two shots less than five months apart will require a third dose of HPV vaccine.
If your teen hasn’t gotten the vaccine yet, talk to their doctor or nurse about getting it for them as soon as possible. If your child is older than 14 years, three shots will need to be given over 6 months. Also, three doses are still recommended for people with certain immunocompromising conditions aged 9 through 26 years. Teen boys and girls who did not start or finish the HPV vaccine series when they were younger should get it now.
HPV vaccine is recommended for young women through age 26, and young men through age 21. HPV vaccine is also recommended for the following people, if they did not get vaccinated when they were younger:
- young men who have sex with men, including young men who identify as gay or bisexual or who intend to have sex with men through age 26;
- young adults who are transgender through age 26; and
- young adults with certain immunocompromising conditions (including HIV) through age 26.
Is the HPV vaccine effective?
This vaccine targets the types of HPV that most commonly cause cervical cancer and genital warts. This vaccine is highly effective in preventing these types of HPV in young women who have not been previously exposed to them. The vaccine will not treat existing HPV infections or existing diseases or conditions caused by HPV. The vaccine also will not protect against disease and infection caused by other HPV types not included in the vaccine.
Is the HPV vaccine safe?
HPV vaccination has been studied very carefully and continues to be monitored by CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). No serious safety concerns have been linked to HPV vaccination. These studies continue to show that HPV vaccines are safe.
Are there other ways, besides the vaccine, to prevent HPV?
The surest way to prevent genital HPV is to avoid sexual contact. For persons who are sexually active, condoms may lower their chances of getting HPV, if used all the time and the right way. Condoms may lower a person’s chances of developing genital warts and cervical cancer. But HPV can infect areas that are not covered by a condom—so condoms may not fully protect against HPV.