Why get vaccinated?
HPV vaccine prevents infection with human papillomavirus (HPV) types that are associated with many cancers, including:
- cervical cancer in females,
- vaginal and vulvar cancers in females,
- anal cancer in females and males,
- throat cancer in females and males, and
- penile cancer in males.
In addition, HPV vaccine prevents infection with HPV types that cause genital warts in both females and males.
In the U.S., about 12,000 women get cervical cancer every year, and about 4,000 women die from it. HPV vaccine can prevent most of these cases of cervical cancer.
Vaccination is not a substitute for cervical cancer screening. This vaccine does not protect against all HPV types that can cause cervical cancer. Women should still get regular Pap tests.
HPV infection usually comes from sexual contact, and most people will become infected at some point in their life. About 14 million Americans, including teens, get infected every year. Most infections will go away on their own and not cause serious problems. But thousands of women and men get cancer and other diseases from HPV.
HPV vaccine is approved by FDA and is recommended by CDC for both males and females. It is routinely given at 11 or 12 years of age, but it may be given beginning at age 9 years through age 26 years.
Most adolescents 9 through 14 years of age should get HPV vaccine as a two-dose series with the doses separated by 6-12 months. People who start HPV vaccination at 15 years of age and older should get the vaccine as a three-dose series with the second dose given 1-2 months after the first dose and the third dose given 6 months after the first dose. There are several exceptions to these age recommendations. Your health care provider can give you more information.
Some people should not get this vaccine
- Anyone who has had a severe (life-threatening) allergic reaction to a dose of HPV vaccine should not get another dose.
- Anyone who has a severe (life threatening) allergy to any component of HPV vaccine should not get the vaccine.
Tell your doctor if you have any severe allergies that you know of, including a severe allergy to yeast.
- HPV vaccine is not recommended for pregnant women. If you learn that you were pregnant when you were vaccinated, there is no reason to expect any problems for you or your baby. Any woman who learns she was pregnant when she got HPV vaccine is encouraged to contact the manufacturer’s registry for HPV vaccination during pregnancy. Women who are breastfeeding may be vaccinated.
- If you have a mild illness, such as a cold, you can probably get the vaccine today. If you are moderately or severely ill, you should probably wait until you recover. Your doctor can advise you.
Risks of a vaccine reaction
With any medicine, including vaccines, there is a chance of side effects. These are usually mild and go away on their own, but serious reactions are also possible.
Most people who get HPV vaccine do not have any serious problems with it.
Mild or moderate problems following HPV vaccine:
- Reactions in the arm where the shot was given:
- Soreness (about 9 people in 10)
- Redness or swelling (about 1 person in 3)
- Mild (37.8°C / 100°F) (about 1 person in 10)
- Moderate (38.9°C / 102°F) (about 1 person in 65)
- Other problems:
- Headache (about 1 person in 3)
Problems that could happen after any injected vaccine:
- People sometimes faint after a medical procedure, including vaccination. Sitting or lying down for about 15 minutes can help prevent fainting, and injuries caused by a fall. Tell your doctor if you feel dizzy, or have vision changes or ringing in the ears.
- Some people get severe pain in the shoulder and have difficulty moving the arm where a shot was given. This happens very rarely.
- Any medication can cause a severe allergic reaction.
Such reactions from a vaccine are very rare, estimated at about 1 in a million doses, and would happen within a few minutes to a few hours after the vaccination. As with any medicine, there is a very remote chance of a vaccine causing a serious injury or death. The safety of vaccines is always being monitored.
What if there is a serious reaction?
What should I look for?
- Look for anything that concerns you, such as signs of a severe allergic reaction, very high fever, or behavior changes.
- Signs of a severe allergic reaction can include:
- swelling of the face and throat
- difficulty breathing
- a fast heartbeat
These would start a few minutes to a few hours after the vaccination.
What should I do?
- If you think it is a severe allergic reaction or other emergency that can’t wait, call your local emergency service or get the person to the nearest hospital. Otherwise, call your doctor.