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HPV (Human papillomavirus)

Knowledge is power … HPV vaccine protects against some types of cancer.

HPV is short for human papillomavirus. Every year in the US, 27,000 people are diagnosed with cancer caused by HPV. Gardasil®, an HPV vaccine, protects against HPV types that most commonly cause these cancers: anal, cervical, head and neck, vulvar, penile and vaginal.

All boys and girls should receive the HPV vaccine series starting at age 11, but may be offered as early as age 9. Children who are fully vaccinated at an early age have a greater immune response to the vaccine, resulting in better protection for your child throughout their adult life.

The series of two injections should be completed by age 15 or three injections if given after age 15. Do not leave your doctor’s office without scheduling all injections.

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The facts

  • HPV affects both males and females
  • About 14 million new HPV infections occur each year
  • Roughly half of new HPV infections occur in 15-24 year olds
  • Vaccination at an early age (11-13) improves protection as an adult
  • 79 million Americans, most in their late teens and early 20s, are infected with HPV
  • HPV can cause serious diseases, like cancers, in adult men and women
  • HPV often has no signs or symptoms. Individuals can get the virus without knowing it and pass it on.

HPV Vaccine: Questions Frequently Asked by Parents

HPV (human papillomavirus) is a common virus that can lead to certain types of cancer later in life. HPV vaccination can prevent over 90% of HPV cancers. Getting your 11-12 year-old child two doses of the HPV vaccine can prevent these cancers.

Does the vaccine work?

Studies continue to prove HPV vaccination works extremely well, decreasing the number of infections and HPV precancers in young people since it has been available.

Why is the HPV vaccine needed at such a young age?

Like all vaccines, the HPV vaccine should be given earlier rather than later. Getting the vaccine earlier protects your child long before they are ever exposed. If you wait until your child is older, he/she may end up needing three shots instead of two.

Why do boys need the HPV vaccine?

HPV vaccination can help prevent future infections that can lead to cancers of the penis, anus and back of the throat in men.

What diseases are caused by HPV?

Some HPV infections can cause cancer—like cancer of the cervix or in the back of the throat—but the HPV vaccine can protect your child from these cancers in the future.

Is my child really at risk for HPV?

HPV is a very common infection in women and men that can cause cancer. Starting the vaccine series early will help protect your child from the cancers and diseases caused by HPV.

I’m worried my child will think that getting this vaccine makes it OK to have sex.

Studies show that getting HPV vaccine doesn’t make kids more likely to start having sex.

I’m worried about the safety of HPV vaccine. Is it safe?

Yes, HPV vaccination is very safe. Like any medication, vaccines can cause side effects, including pain, swelling, or redness where the shot was given. That’s normal for HPV vaccine too and should go away in a day or two. Sometimes, kids faint after they get shots and they could be injured if they fall from fainting. Your health care provider will have your child stay seated after the shot to help protect him/her.

Can HPV vaccine cause infertility in my child?

There is no evidence available to suggest that getting HPV vaccine will have an effect on future fertility. However, women who develop an HPV precancer or cancer could require treatment that would limit their ability to have children.

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