The HPV vaccine protects against cancers caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. HPV is a very common virus; nearly 80 million people—about one in four—are currently infected in the United States. About 14 million people, including teens, become infected with HPV each year.
Most people with HPV never develop symptoms or health problems. Most HPV infections (9 out of 10) go away by themselves within two years. But, sometimes, HPV infections will last longer, and can cause certain cancers and other diseases. HPV infection can cause:
- cancers of the cervix, vagina, and vulva in women;
- cancers of the penis in men; and
- cancers of the anus and back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils (oropharynx), in both women and men.
Every year in the United States, HPV causes 33,700 cancers in men and women. HPV vaccination can prevent most of the cancers (about 31,200) from ever developing.
HPV is transmitted through intimate skin-to-skin contact. You can get HPV by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has the virus.
All kids who are 11 or 12 years old should get two shots of HPV vaccine six to twelve months apart. Adolescents who receive their two shots less than five months apart will require a third dose of HPV vaccine.
If your teen hasn’t gotten the vaccine yet, talk to their doctor or nurse about getting it for them as soon as possible.
HPV vaccination has been studied very carefully and continues to be monitored by CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). No serious safety concerns have been linked to HPV vaccination. The most common side effects reported after HPV vaccination are mild. They include pain and redness in the area of the arm where the shot was given, fever, dizziness, and nausea.
If you have questions about the HPV vaccine, contact your child’s school nurse.
Adapted from cdc.gov/hpv