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HPV vaccine

The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine protects against infection by certain strains of HPV. Human papillomavirus can cause cervical cancer and genital warts.

HPV has also been linked to other kinds of cancers, including vaginal, vulvar, penile, anal, mouth, and throat cancers.

Information

HPV is a common virus that is spread through sexual contact. There are several types of HPV. Many types don't cause problems. Some types of HPV can lead to:

  • Cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancer
  • Genital warts
  • Cancer of the penis
  • Cancer of the anus
  • Warts in the throat
  • Cancers of the mouth, tongue, and throat

Two vaccines are approved by the Food and Drug Administration:

  • HPV4 (Gardasil)
  • HPV9 (Gardasil-9)

Both vaccines protect against the types of HPV that cause most cases of cervical cancer. Other, less common types of HPV can also cause cervical cancer.

These vaccines do not treat cervical cancer.

WHO SHOULD GET THIS VACCINE

Either Gardasil or Gardasil-9 is recommended for boys and girls 11 or 12 years old, or starting at 9 years old. The vaccine is also recommended for people up to 26 years old who haven't already gotten the vaccine or finished the series of shots. The vaccine can offer protection against HPV-related cancers in any age group. Certain people who may have new sexual contacts in the future and could be exposed to HPV should also consider the vaccine.

Gardasil is given as a 3-dose series:

  • First dose: now
  • Second dose: 1 to 2 months after the first dose
  • Third dose: 6 months after the first dose

Gardasil-9 is given as a 2-dose series to boys and girls 9 through 14 years old:

  • First dose: now
  • Second dose: 6 to 12 months after the first dose
  • If vaccine is given at 15 years or older, 3 doses are recommended

Pregnant women should not receive this vaccine. However, there have been no problems found in women who received the vaccine during pregnancy, before they knew they were pregnant.

SIDE EFFECTS

The most common side effects are fainting, dizziness, nausea, headache, and skin reactions at the site where the shot was given.

WHAT ELSE TO THINK ABOUT

The HPV vaccine does not protect against all types of HPV that can lead to cervical cancer. Girls and women should still receive regular screening (Pap test) to look for precancerous changes and early signs of cervical cancer.

The HPV vaccine does not protect against other infections that can be spread during sexual contact.

Talk to your provider if:

  • You are not sure whether you or your child should receive the HPV vaccine
  • You or your child develops complications or severe symptoms after getting an HPV vaccine
  • You have other questions or concerns about the HPV vaccine

Alternative Names

Vaccine - HPV; Immunization - HPV; Gardasil; HPV2; HPV4; Vaccine to prevent cervical cancer; Genital warts - HPV vaccine; Cervical dysplasia - HPV vaccine; Cervical cancer - HPV vaccine; Cancer of the cervix - HPV vaccine; Abnormal Pap smear - HPV vaccine; Vaccination - HPV vaccine

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. CDC recommends only two HPV shots for younger adolescents [press release]. October 19, 2016. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Media Relations. www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/p1020-hpv-shots.html. Accessed October 13, 2017.

Immunization Expert Work Group, Committee on Adolescent Health Care. Committee opinion No. 704: human papillomavirus vaccination. Obstet Gynecol. 2017;129(6):e173-e178. PMID: 28346275 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28346275.

Kim DK, Riley LE, Harriman KH, Hunter P, Bridges CB. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended immunization schedule for adults aged 19 years or older - United States, 2017. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2017;66(5):136-138. PMID: 28182599 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28182599.

Robinson CL, Romero JR, Kempe A, Pellegrini C; Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) Child/Adolescent Immunization Work Group. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended immunization schedule for children and adolescents aged 18 years or younger - United States, 2017. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2017;66(5):134-135. PMID: 28182607 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28182607.

Review Date 7/17/2017

Updated by: Cynthia D. White, MD, Fellow American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Group Health Cooperative, Bellevue, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.