Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccination: What Everyone Should Know
HPV vaccination is recommended at ages 11–12 years. HPV vaccines can be given starting at age 9 years. All preteens need HPV vaccination, so they are protected from HPV infections that can cause cancer later in life.
- Teens and young adults through age 26 years who didn’t start or finish the HPV vaccine series also need HPV vaccination.
CDC recommends that 11- to 12-year-olds receive two doses of HPV vaccine 6 to 12 months apart.
- The first dose is routinely recommended at ages 11–12 years old. The vaccination can be started at age 9 years.
- Only two doses are needed if the first dose was given before 15th birthday.
Teens and young adults who start the series later, at ages 15 through 26 years, need three doses of HPV vaccine.
- Children aged 9 through 14 years who have received two doses of HPV vaccine less than 5 months apart will need a third dose.
- Three doses are also recommended for people aged 9 through 26 years who have weakened immune systems.
Vaccination is not recommended for everyone older than age 26 years.
- 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 for them.
- HPV vaccination in this age range provides less benefit, because more people in this age range have already been exposed to HPV.
Tell your doctor about any severe allergies. Some people should not get some HPV vaccines if:
- They have ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction to any ingredient of an HPV vaccine, or to a previous dose of HPV vaccine.
- They have an allergy to yeast (Gardasil and Gardasil 9).
- They are pregnant.
HPV vaccines are safe for children who are mildly ill, like those with a low-grade fever of less than 101 degrees, a cold, runny nose, or cough. People with a moderate or severe illness should wait until they are better.
Three HPV vaccines—9-valent HPV vaccine (Gardasil 9, 9vHPV), quadrivalent HPV vaccine (Gardasil, 4vHPV), and bivalent HPV vaccine (Cervarix, 2vHPV)—have been licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). All three HPV vaccines protect against HPV types 16 and 18 that cause most HPV cancers.
Since late 2016, only Gardasil-9 (9vHPV) is distributed in the United States. This vaccine protects against nine HPV types (6, 11, 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58).
HPV vaccination works extremely well. HPV vaccine has the potential to prevent more than 90% of HPV-attributable cancers.
- Since HPV vaccination was first recommended in 2006, infections with HPV types that cause most HPV cancers and genital warts have dropped 88% among teen girls and 81% among young adult women.
- Fewer teens and young adults are getting genital warts.
- HPV vaccination has also reduced the number of cases of precancers of the cervix in young women.
- The protection provided by HPV vaccines lasts a long time. People who received HPV vaccines were followed for at least about 12 years, and their protection against HPV has remained high with no evidence of decreasing over time.
Vaccines, like any medicine, can have side effects. Many people who get HPV vaccine have no side effects at all. Some people report having very mild side effects, like a sore arm from the shot.
The most common side effects of HPV vaccine are usually 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 than others)
- Headache or feeling tired
- Muscle or joint pain
To prevent fainting and injuries from fainting, adolescents should be seated or lying down during vaccination and for 15 minutes after getting the shot.
Very rarely, severe (anaphylactic) allergic reactions might occur after vaccination. People with severe allergies to any component of a vaccine should not receive that vaccine.
HPV vaccine may be available at doctor offices, community health clinics, school-based health centers, and health departments.
If your doctor does not stock HPV vaccine, ask for a referral.
You can also contact your state health department to learn more about where to get HPV vaccine in your community.
Most health insurance plans cover routine vaccinations. The Vaccines for Children (VFC) program also provides vaccines for children 18 years and younger who are uninsured, underinsured, Medicaid-eligible, American Indian, or Alaska Native.