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Put Vaccination on Your Back-to-School List

Students in class, raising handsHPV vaccine can prevent certain cancers and other diseases caused by human papillomavirus (HPV). Get your girls and your boys vaccinated at 11 or 12, or as soon as possible if they're already 13 or older.

What is HPV?

HPV, short for human papillomavirus, is very common—about 79 million people in the United States are currently infected with HPV. Many HPV infections go away, but sometimes HPV infection can cause cancer.

Each year in the United States, about 17,600 women get cancer that is linked with HPV, and cervical cancer is the most common. Around 9,300 men each year get cancer caused by HPV infection, and the most common are cancers of the back of throat, tongue, and tonsils. HPV can also cause cancers of the vulva and vagina in women, cancer of the penis in men, and cancer of the anus in women and men. The HPV vaccine is important because it could prevent the HPV infections that cause most of these cancers.

Two students jumping into air

Time flies and school will be here before you know it. Get your child vaccinated today!

What else should I know about HPV vaccine?

HPV vaccines are given in a series of shots at ages 11 or 12 years. HPV vaccines give boys and girls the best protection when they have received all the shots in the series and have had time to develop protection long before they are exposed to HPV infection. Like all vaccines, HPV vaccine is recommended for the youngest age group for whom the vaccine has shown to be safe and effective. That's why HPV vaccination is recommended for preteen girls and boys are 11 or 12 years old—to prevent the disease before they are exposed.

HPV vaccine works very well. A recent study by the CDC showed that the HPV vaccine is very effective and helped to cut HPV infection rates in teen girls in half.

HPV vaccine has a very good safety record [148 KB]. In the years since the vaccine was first recommended in 2007, HPV vaccine safety monitoring studies continue to show that HPV vaccines are safe. Some preteens and teens may feel lightheaded, dizzy or like they may faint when getting any vaccine, including HPV vaccine. After a preteen or teen gets a vaccine, it's a good idea to hang out for 15 minutes before leaving, just to make sure.

Who should get HPV vaccine?

Both boys and girls should start the HPV vaccine series when they are 11 or 12 years old and finish all recommended doses before they turn age 13. If a teen or young adult (through age 26) has not started or finished the series of three HPV vaccine shots, it's not too late, make an appointment to start or finish the series! If it has been a long time since your child got the first or second dose of HPV vaccine, you don't have to start over—just get the remaining shot(s) as soon as possible. Make an appointment today to get your child vaccinated.

Ask about HPV vaccine during any appointment

Take advantage of any doctor's visit—checkups, sick visits, even physicals for sports or school—to ask the doctor about what shots your preteens and teens need. Even if your doctor doesn't mention HPV vaccine, be sure to ask the doctor or nurse about getting it for your child at that appointment.

Families who need help paying for vaccines should ask their health care provider about the Vaccines for Children Program. The program provides vaccines at no cost to uninsured children younger than 19 years. For help in finding a local health care provider who participates in the program, parents can call 800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) or go to Vaccines and Immunizations.

  • How can I learn more about HPV and HPV vaccine?
  • To learn more about HPV vaccine, visit HPV Vaccine for Preteens and Teens.

Get your questions about HPV vaccine answered by checking out HPV Vaccine - Questions & Answers.