Frequently Asked Questions about HPV Vaccine Safety
- Is HPV vaccine safe?
- Which HPV vaccine is available in the United States?
- Are there known side effects from getting HPV vaccine?
- Is there anyone who should not get HPV vaccine (Gardasil 9)?
- How are HPV vaccines monitored for possible safety problems?
- Have serious adverse events been reported after people receive HPV vaccines?
- Can HPV vaccines damage women’s ovaries?
- Are HPV vaccines safe for pregnant women?
- Have HPV vaccines been linked to Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS)?
- Can HPV vaccines cause postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS)?
- Do HPV vaccines cause chronic regional pain syndrome (CRPS)?
- Do HPV vaccines cause chronic fatigue syndrome?
- Has anyone died after receiving HPV vaccines?
- Have FDA and CDC changed any HPV vaccine recommendations based on vaccine safety monitoring?
- What if someone has a serious reaction after getting an HPV vaccine?
- Where can I get more information about HPV vaccines?
Yes. The safety of HPV vaccine has been well studied. Before the three HPV vaccines were licensed by the FDA, each underwent years of testing through clinical trials to make sure they were safe.
- Gardasil 9® was studied in more than 15,000 women and men.
- Gardasil® was studied in 29,000 women and men.
- Cervarix® was studied in more than 30,000 women.
The findings from these clinical trials showed HPV vaccines to be safe and effective, and led to the FDA’s decision to license each vaccine.
After licensure, HPV vaccine safety monitoring by CDC and FDA continues to look for rare or new problems that may happen after vaccination. Since HPV vaccine became available in 2006, there have been many large safety studies conducted in the United States and other countries — with reassuring findings. There have been no confirmed safety signals (i.e. higher than expected number of adverse events) observed, with the exception of syncope (fainting).
Fainting and related symptoms (such as jerking movements) can happen after any medical procedure, including vaccination. Some people, especially teens, faint after being vaccinated. To prevent fainting-related injuries, people receiving HPV vaccines should sit or lie down during vaccination, then patients should be observed for 15 minutes after receiving the shot.
Although rare, a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis can also occur following HPV vaccines. Learn more about who should not get HPV vaccine.
CDC continues to monitor the safety of HPV vaccines and provides updates to the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), as well as the World Health Organization’s Global Advisory Committee for Vaccine Safety (GACVS). See an overview of CDC’s vaccine safety publications.
Which HPV vaccine is available in the United States?
Who should get HPV vaccine?
Visit https://www.cdc.gov/HPV/ to learn more.
Currently, only Gardasil 9 is available for use in the United States.
Gardasil and Cervarix are earlier versions of HPV vaccine, and are no longer available in the United States. Gardasil 9 protects against more types of HPV. The safety studies conducted on Gardasil and Cervarix provide an important foundation for the ongoing safety studies on Gardasil 9. Get more information about each HPV vaccine.
Are there known side effects from getting HPV vaccine?
Vaccines, like any medicine, can have side effects. Some people who get an HPV vaccine have no side effects at all. Some people report having mild side effects, like a sore arm from the shot for a day or two. The most common side effects are usually mild and go away on their own.
Common Side Effects of HPV Vaccine:
- Pain, redness, or swelling in the arm where the shot was given
- Headache or feeling tired
- Muscle or joint pain
Is there anyone who should not get HPV vaccine (Gardasil 9)?
- Anyone who has ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction to any component of HPV vaccine, or to a previous dose of HPV vaccine, should not get the vaccine. Anyone with severe allergies, including an allergy to yeast, should talk to their doctor before getting the vaccine.
- HPV vaccine is not recommended for pregnant women. However, receiving HPV vaccine when pregnant is not cause for alarm. Women who are breastfeeding may get the vaccine.
- People who are mildly ill (low-grade fever of less than 101 degrees, a cold, runny nose, or cough) when a dose of HPV vaccine is planned can still be vaccinated. People with a moderate or severe illness should wait until they are better.
How are HPV vaccines monitored for possible safety problems?
All vaccines used in the United States are required to go through years of extensive safety testing before they are approved and licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). After vaccines are licensed, CDC and FDA continue to monitor for any rare or new problems that may happen after vaccination.
CDC uses three systems to monitor the safety of vaccines after they are licensed:
- The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS)
- The Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD)
- The Clinical Immunization Safety Assessment (CISA) Network
Have serious adverse events been reported after people receive HPV vaccines?
Which adverse events are considered “serious”?
By regulation, an adverse event is defined as serious if it involves any of the following outcomes: death, a life-threatening adverse event, a persistent or significant disability or incapacity, a congenital anomaly or birth defect, hospitalization, or prolongation of existing hospitalization.
Over 100 million doses of HPV vaccines were distributed in the United States from June 2006 through December 2017. To date, most of CDC’s HPV vaccine safety monitoring and research has focused on Gardasil because it has accounted for the majority of HPV vaccine doses distributed in the United States. These safety efforts continue, now focusing on Gardasil 9.
Among all reports to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) following HPV vaccines, the most frequently reported symptoms overall were dizziness; fainting; headache; nausea; fever; and pain, redness, and swelling in the arm where the shot was given. Of the reports to VAERS, 6% were classified as “serious.” About 22% of the VAERS reports were not related to health problems, but were reported for reasons such as improper vaccine storage or the vaccine being given to someone for whom it was not recommended.
Gardasil 9 is currently the only HPV vaccine available in the United States. From its licensure in December 2014 through December 2017, about 29 million doses of Gardasil 9 have been distributed in the U.S. During the same period, VAERS received 7,244 U.S. reports of adverse events following Gardasil 9 vaccination. Overall, 97% were non-serious reports; 3% of reports have been classified as serious.
From its licensure in June 2006 through December 2017, more than 80 million doses of Gardasil were distributed in the United States. During the same period, VAERS received 36,142 U.S. reports of adverse events following Gardasil vaccination. Overall, 93% were non-serious reports; 7% of reports have been classified as serious. Gardasil is no longer available in the United States.
From its licensure in October 2009 through December 2017, about 720,000 doses of Cervarix were distributed in the United States. During the same period, there have been 245 U.S. VAERS reports of adverse events following Cervarix vaccination. Overall, 96% were non-serious reports; 4% of reports have been classified as serious. Cervarix is no longer available in the United States.
About VAERS, reported adverse events, and safety data
The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) is a national vaccine safety monitoring system co-managed by CDC and FDA. The system accepts adverse event reports following vaccination from vaccine manufacturers, healthcare professionals, and the public. It serves as an early warning system to detect possible safety problems that require further evaluation; however, the safety data the system provides has limitations.
VAERS data limitations include reporting biases, inconsistent data quality and completeness, and a lack of unvaccinated comparison groups. Because of these limitations, VAERS generally cannot determine if a vaccine caused a reported adverse event. While some reported adverse events may be caused by vaccination, others may be coincidental and not related to vaccination. Learn more about VAERS and the safety data it provides.
Can HPV vaccines damage women’s ovaries?
CDC is aware of public concern about the safety of HPV vaccine. Since the vaccine’s introduction in 2006, vaccine safety monitoring and studies conducted by CDC, FDA, and other organizations have documented a reassuring safety record. There is no current evidence that HPV vaccines cause reproductive problems in women.
What is primary ovarian insufficiency (POI)?
Also known as “premature menopause,” this is a condition in which a woman’s ovaries stop functioning before age 40. Causes of primary ovarian insufficiency include:
- Chemicals in the environment
- Cancer treatments
- Autoimmune disorders
- Some viral infections
However, in many cases it’s not possible to determine the cause. CDC and FDA have not found any proof that HPV vaccines cause POI.
How has CDC and FDA addressed the concern of HPV vaccines and POI?
Before HPV vaccines were licensed, their safety was extensively studied in clinical trials. These studies found no difference in amenorrhea (when a woman of reproductive age doesn’t have a period) between women who got Gardasil compared to women who received a placebo. POI did not occur among women in the Gardasil clinical trials.
Between December 1, 2014 and Dec 31, 2017, when 29 million doses of Gardasil 9 had been distributed in the United States, VAERS received 3 reports of POI following Gardasil 9 vaccination. The 3 reports were determined to be hearsay reports, meaning there was not enough information to confirm a diagnosis of POI.
Between January 2009 and December 2015, more than 60 million doses of Gardasil were distributed for use in the United States. During this time period, the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) received 17 reports of POI following Gardasil vaccination. Two of these reports had a physician diagnosis of POI; the remaining 15 reports were considered hearsay reports, meaning there was not enough information to confirm diagnosis. Read the published article.
FDA and CDC reviewed the confirmed POI reports, investigating whether or not there was a pattern that might indicate the vaccine was causing the problem. There were no patterns found, making it unlikely the vaccine was the cause.
Even though a pattern among VAERS reports for POI following HPV vaccination has not been seen to date, CDC is conducting a study in the Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD) to examine this issue further.
CDC and FDA continue to closely monitor the safety of HPV vaccines.
Does HPV vaccine prevent any conditions that lead to loss of a woman’s fertility?
HPV vaccination prevents infection with the HPV types that most commonly cause cervical cancer. In some cases, women develop cervical cancer before starting or finish having children. Treatment for cervical cancer (removal of the cervix and uterus, chemotherapy, and/or radiation) can keep a woman from being able to be pregnant. Preventing cervical cancer through HPV vaccination reduces this risk.
CDC works closely with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) on HPV vaccination, both of which have information available on their websites. Also, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG) offers additional resources:
Are HPV vaccines safe for pregnant women?
HPV vaccines are not approved or recommended for pregnant women. However, some pregnant women receive HPV vaccines because they don’t know that they are pregnant at the time of vaccination.
CDC and vaccine manufacturers have monitored and studied HPV vaccine safety in women who received the vaccine when they were pregnant. The manufacturers for each vaccine have established a pregnancy registry to follow outcomes for those women who were mistakenly vaccinated. Close monitoring has not found any health concerns. If a woman receives HPV vaccine and later learns that she is pregnant, there is no reason to be alarmed.
Any woman who learns she was pregnant at the time she received an HPV vaccine is encouraged to contact the vaccine manufacturer. This will help us learn how pregnant women respond to the vaccine.
- Pregnant women who received Gardasil 9 can contact Merck at 1-877-888-4231 if they have questions related to getting the vaccine while pregnant.
- Doctors should report Gardasil 9 vaccination during pregnancy as early in the pregnancy as possible using Merck Pregnancy Registries.
The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) has monitored pregnancy outcomes for woman who were mistakenly given HPV vaccine. In a review of reports to VAERS (from the public, not from the manufacturer) between June 2006 and December 2013, there were 147 reports of Gardasil administered to pregnant women. No unexpected patterns of adverse events to the fetus. Read the published article.
The Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD) also conducted a study looking at maternal and infant outcomes following Gardasil vaccination of women who were mistakenly vaccinated. Gardasil mistakenly given to pregnant women or during the time right before they were pregnant was not associated with adverse pregnancy or birth outcomes. Read the published article.
Have HPV vaccines been linked to Guillain-Barré syndrome?
Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) is a rare disorder where a person’s own immune system damages nerve cells, causing muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis. Most people recover fully from GBS, but some experience long-term nerve damage.
The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) is currently monitoring reports of GBS following Gardasil 9. Between December 1, 2014 and December 31, 2017, when approximately 29 million doses of Gardasil 9 had been given out in the United States, there were 4 confirmed reports of GBS.
The Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD) is also currently monitoring for GBS following Gardasil 9 vaccination. To date, there have no findings to suggest a safety problem related to GBS.
VSD conducted monitoring for GBS following Gardasil vaccination from August 2006 to December 31, 2015. During this time, 2,773,185 doses of Gardasil were administered to males and females aged 9-26 years. Using medical records to confirm cases of GBS, there was 1 GBS case in a male. The study provides evidence that the risk of getting GBS following HPV vaccination is extremely rare. Read the published article.
Can HPV vaccines cause postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS)?
POTS is a condition that causes lightheadedness or fainting and a rapid increase in heartbeat upon standing. The cause is unknown, but doctors think POTS may be associated with a number of risk factors and syndromes, including recent viral illness, head trauma, physical deconditioning, and nervous system problems.
Gardasil 9, Gardasil, and Cervarix
From June 2006 through August 2015, more than 80 million HPV vaccine doses were distributed in the United States. During this time period, the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) received 29 reports of POTS following HPV vaccination. Of these reports, 28 followed Gardasil vaccination, which accounted for the majority of HPV vaccinations in the United States during this time period. CDC’s safety review did not detect any unusual or unexpected patterns among the cases. Read the published article.
In November 2015, the European Medicine’s Agency completed a detailed review of available POTS data from young women who received HPV vaccines. The review found that the evidence does not support a causal link between HPV vaccines and POTS. Read the published article.
Ongoing safety monitoring through VAERS has not detected any safety concerns related to POTS following HPV vaccination.
VAERS has also conducted a formal review of POTS following Gardasil 9 vaccination. Between December 1, 2014 and December 31, 2017, when over 29 million doses of Gardasil 9 had been given out in the United States, VAERS received 17 reports of POTS. Among those, 6 reports partially met diagnostic criteria of POTS.
The Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD) is currently of planning a study to evaluate POTS among 9 to 30 year-olds who received any adolescent vaccination.
Do HPV vaccines cause chronic regional pain syndrome (CRPS)?
Some people who get the HPV vaccine may have some pain in the arm where the shot was given. Usually this pain is mild and goes away quickly. Swelling and redness also sometimes occur after HPV vaccination.
CDC is aware of reports (in Japan and elsewhere) of chronic pain following HPV vaccines. Some of these reports were described as potential cases of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), a rare condition of persistent pain that usually affects arms, legs, hands, or feet after an injury or trauma to that limb.
Gardasil 9, Gardasil, and Cervarix
A safety review of reports to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) from June 2006 through July 2015 identified 22 reports of CRPS following HPV vaccination. At that time, over 67 million doses of HPV vaccine had been distributed in the United States. The findings included 21 reports of CRPS following Gardasil vaccination and 1 report following Cervarix vaccination. The review concluded that CRPS following HPV vaccination is rare. Read the published article.
In November 2015, the European Medicine’s Agency completed a detailed review of available data on CRPS in young women who received HPV vaccines. The review found that the evidence does not support a causal link between HPV vaccines and CRPS. Read the published article.
Also, CDC reviewed reports to VAERS of CRPS following Gardasil-9 vaccination between December 1, 2014 and December 31, 2017. There was 1 report of CRPS; however, because of incomplete information, the report could only be classified as “possible CRPS.”
The Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD) is currently of planning a study to evaluate CRPS among 9 to 30 year-olds who received any adolescent vaccination.
Do HPV vaccines cause chronic fatigue syndrome?
Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) is a disabling and complex illness. People with ME/CFS have overwhelming fatigue that is not improved by rest. While researchers have not yet found what causes ME/CFS, some symptoms can be treated or managed. CDC is aware of reports of chronic fatigue syndrome following HPV vaccines, and continues to monitor for any unusual or unexpected patterns among reported cases.
In a review of reports to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) between June 2006 and September 2015, there were 20 reports of ME/CFS following Gardasil vaccination. At that time, over 80 million doses of Gardasil had been distributed in the United States. No unusual or unexpected patterns of reporting of CFS following HPV vaccine were detected.
In addition, a 2017 study published by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health observed no increased risk of ME/CFS among girls given HPV vaccine through the Norwegian national immunization program between 2009 and 2014. Read the published article.
Has anyone died after receiving HPV vaccines?
Some deaths among people who received an HPV vaccine have been reported to the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS). This does not mean that the vaccine caused the death, only that the death occurred after the person got the vaccine. CDC and FDA investigate all reports of death following vaccination.
Gardasil 9, Gardasil
From December 1, 2014 through December 31, 2017, when about 29 million doses of Gardasil-9 had been distributed in the United States, VAERS received 7 reports of death. Among these reports, only 2 were verified through medical record review, autopsy reports or death certificates. The other reports were considered hearsay, meaning there was not enough information to confirm whether the death occurred.
Also, from June 2006 through September 2015, when about 80 million doses of HPV vaccine had been distributed in the United States, VAERS received 117 reports of death after people received Gardasil. Among the 117 reports of death, many could not be further studied because there was not enough information included in the report to verify that a person had died. In 51 of the reports, CDC reviewed medical records, autopsy reports, or death certificates and verified that the person had died.
After careful review of every reported case of death that has happened after Gardasil or Gardasil-9 vaccination, CDC concluded there was no pattern of death occurring with respect to time after vaccination, and there was no consistent vaccine dose number or combination of vaccines given among the reports. In summary, the evidence did not suggest a causal link between Gardasil and the reported deaths.
The Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD) also conducted a study evaluating death 30 days following Gardasil. After a review of all the participating health plans’ data to identify death occurring 0-30 days after Gardasil vaccination, there were 13 deaths identified of which 9 were due to external causes such as accident, homicide, or suicide. Of the 4 remaining deaths, two were determined unrelated to vaccination and the other two did not have sufficient evidence to confirm or rule out whether Gardasil caused the death. When VSD compared the rate of death following Gardasil in this study to national rates of death for all causes in the United States, the researchers from this study concluded that the risk of death was not increased during the 30 days following vaccination and no deaths were to be causally associated with vaccination after clinical review. Read the published article.
Have FDA and CDC changed any HPV vaccine recommendations based on vaccine safety monitoring?
Yes. When fainting (or syncope) was found to happen after vaccination, FDA changed Gardasil’s guidance for doctors to include information about preventing falls and injuries from fainting after HPV vaccination. CDC and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices included this guidance in the recommendations for HPV vaccination. CDC continues to remind doctors and nurses to observe this guidance and to share this information with all their patients.
What if someone has a serious reaction after getting an HPV vaccine?
If you or your child is having a severe allergic reaction or other health emergency, call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest hospital.
Look for any signs or symptoms that concern you, such as signs of a severe allergic reaction, very high fever, or behavior changes. Signs of a severe allergic reaction can include hives, swelling of the face and throat, difficulty breathing, a fast heartbeat, dizziness, and weakness. These would start a few minutes to a few hours after the shot is given.
After seeing a doctor, the reaction should be reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). This system is used to report any side effect or adverse event following vaccination. Your doctor can file this report, or you can do it yourself through the VAERS website or by calling 1-800-822-7967.
Where can I get more information about HPV vaccines?
For additional information on HPV vaccines and CDC’s recommendations, visit CDC’s Human Papillomavirus (HPV) website.
- Page last reviewed: November 2, 2015
- Page last updated: April 11, 2018
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