HPV vaccination is very important because it protects against cancers caused by human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a virus passed from one person to another during skin-to-skin sexual contact, including vaginal, oral and anal sex. HPV is very common; nearly 80 million people—about one in four—are currently infected in the United States. HPV is most common in people in their late teens and early 20s. Most of the time, the body’s immune system naturally fights off HPV before it causes any health problems. Unfortunately, in some cases, HPV causes cancer and other serious diseases.
Vaccine for children
HPV vaccination is a 2-dose or 3-dose series of shots, depending on the child’s age when the series is started. All preteens (11 or 12) need HPV vaccination to be protected from HPV infections that cause cancer. If your teen hasn't gotten the vaccine yet, talk with their doctor or nurse about getting it for them as soon as possible. The best way to remember to get your child all the HPV doses they need is to make an appointment for the remaining shot(s) before you leave the doctor’s office or clinic.
Vaccine for young adults
HPV vaccine also is recommended for young women up through age 26, and young men up through age 21. Teens and young adults who never started or didn’t complete the HPV vaccine series also need HPV vaccination. Young men who have sex with other men, young adults who are transgender, or young adults who have weakened immune systems should also get HPV vaccine through age 26.
HPV vaccination can protect against many cancers caused by HPV. In women, HPV infection can cause cancers of the cervix, vagina, and vulva. In men, it can cause cancers of the penis. In both women and men, it can cause cancers of the anus and back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils (oropharynx). All licensed HPV vaccines provide primary protection against cancers related to HPV types 16 and 18, which are responsible for about 70 percent of HPV-related cancers in the United States. The increasingly available 9-valent HPV vaccine provides coverage for a total of nine HPV types and protects against an additional 14 percent of HPV-related cancers in women and 4 percent of HPV-related cancers in men.
Screening for cancers caused by HPV
For women, screening with a Pap smear is available to detect many cases of cervical cancer. However, all women who have completed the vaccine series still must continue regular screening because the HPV vaccine does not protect against all cervical cancers. Unfortunately, there is no routine screening for the other HPV-related cancers in women or men. That is why a vaccine that prevents most of these types of cancers is so important.
HPV vaccination has been studied very carefully and continues to be monitored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These studies continue to show that HPV vaccines are safe and effective at preventing HPV. Most people who get HPV vaccine do not have any serious problems with it. Mild or moderate reactions such as soreness, redness or swelling in the arm where the shot was given or some fever and headache are possible. These are usually mild and go away on their own.
To find a pediatrician, call (855) 372-2237.