Vaccinating Boys and Girls

Protect your child from developing certain types of cancers later in life with the HPV vaccine at ages 11–12.

When Should My Child Get the HPV Vaccine?

Dose #1

11–12 years

Dose #2

6–12 months after the first dose

Two doses of the HPV vaccine are recommended for all boys and girls at ages 11–12; the vaccine can be given as early as age 9. If you wait until they’re older, they may need three doses instead of two.

Children who start the vaccine series on or after their 15th birthday need three shots given over 6 months. If your teen hasn’t gotten the vaccine yet, talk to his/her doctor about getting it as soon as possible.

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Vaccines protect your child before they are exposed to a disease. That’s why the HPV vaccine is recommended earlier rather than later, to protect your child long before they are ever exposed to the virus.

Teens and young adults should be vaccinated too.

HPV vaccination is also recommended for everyone through age 26 years, if not vaccinated already.

Vaccination is not recommended for everyone older than age 26 years. However, some adults age 27 through 45 years who are not already vaccinated may decide to get HPV vaccine after speaking with their doctor about their risk for new HPV infections and the possible benefits of vaccination. HPV vaccination in this age range provides less benefit, as more people have already been exposed to HPV.

HPV vaccination is preventing cancer-causing infections and precancers.

HPV infections and cervical precancers (abnormal cells on the cervix that can lead to cancer) have dropped significantly since the vaccine has been in use.

  • Among teen girls, infections with HPV types that cause most HPV cancers and genital warts have dropped 86 percent.
  • Among young adult women, infections with HPV types that cause most HPV cancers and genital warts have dropped 71 percent.
  • Among vaccinated women, the percentage of cervical precancers caused by the HPV types most often linked to cervical cancer has dropped by 40 percent.
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HPV vaccination is very safe.

Over 12 years of monitoring and research have shown that the HPV vaccine is very safe and effective. Like all vaccines, there is ongoing monitoring of the HPV vaccine to ensure it is safe and effective.

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Possible side effects

Like any vaccine or medicine, HPV vaccination can cause side effects. The most common side effects are mild and include:

  • Pain, redness, or swelling in the arm where the shot was given
  • Dizziness or fainting (fainting after any vaccine, including HPV vaccine, is more common among adolescents)
  • Nausea
  • Headache

The benefits of HPV vaccination far outweigh any potential risk of side effects.

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To prevent fainting and injuries related to fainting, adolescents should be seated or lying down during vaccination and remain in that position for 15 minutes after the vaccine is given.

Help paying for the HPV vaccine

The Vaccines for Children (VFC) program helps families of eligible children who might not otherwise have access to vaccines. The program provides vaccines at no cost to children ages 18 years and younger who are uninsured, Medicaid-eligible, or American Indian/Alaska Native. To learn more, see VFC program.

Page last reviewed: August 15, 2019