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If you are on the fence about HPV vaccination, here are the facts.

Depending on your age, you may not have gotten an HPV vaccine when you were younger. That’s because the vaccine wasn’t available in the U.S. until 2006. Since that time, there has been a dramatic drop in the incidence of cancers caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), as well as genital and anal warts, due to the vaccine.

How effective is HPV vaccination?

There has been an 88 percent drop in infections among teen girls with HPV types that cause most HPV cancers and genital warts since the introduction of the vaccine in 2006, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Among young adult women, the drop in these infections is about 81 percent. Additionally, among all vaccinated women, pre-cancers caused by HPV types most often linked to cervical cancer has dropped by 40 percent.

The HPV vaccine currently used in the U.S. is Gardasil® 9. It has been shown to create an antibody response in more than 98 percent of recipients within one month of completing the full vaccination series. Some people may have already been exposed to one or more types of HPV prior to vaccination, but the vaccine is still effective against other types included in the vaccine (the vaccine protects against nine HPV types) so it is suggested that people still get vaccinated even if they have already been exposed to the virus.

Who should get vaccinated?

It is recommended that all children (females and males) get vaccinated against HPV at age 11 or 12, although vaccination can be given as young as age 9. Older kids, teens and young adults up to age 26 who have not yet been vaccinated should also get the vaccine. The vaccine is given in either two or three doses, depending on the age of the person when initially vaccinated.

HPV vaccination is not generally recommended for people over age 26 because it provides less benefit, primarily because more people have already been exposed to HPV in this age range. However, it may be worth a discussion with your healthcare provider if you are between the ages of 27 and 45 and have not previously been vaccinated to determine if HPV vaccination is right for you.

Why do boys need to get HPV vaccines?

You may be wondering why boys need HPV vaccination if HPV is primarily associated with cervical cancer, but the fact is that boys can get some types of cancer that are also caused by HPV, including cancers of the head and neck, as well as cancers of the anal and genital area. They can also get genital and anal warts caused by HPV.

Is the vaccine safe?

More than 135 million doses of HPV vaccines have been given in the U.S., according to the CDC. The vaccines have been shown to be safe and effective. The most common side effects include:

  • Pain, redness or swelling at the site of the injection
  • Fever
  • Dizziness/fainting
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Muscle/joint pain
  • Fatigue

Any side effects experienced tend to be mild and get better within a day or two.

“As a gynecologist I strongly recommend HPV vaccination to eligible patients, both male and female. It has proven to be both beneficial and safe.”

Emily M. Bienvenu, MD, FACOG

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Date Last Reviewed: November 20, 2023

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

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