Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

What is HPV?

Genital human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted virus in the United States. More than half of sexually active men and women are infected with HPV at some time in their lives. 

About 20 million Americans are currently infected, and about 6 million more get infected each year. HPV is usually spread through sexual contact.

Most HPV infections don’t cause any symptoms, and go away on their own. But HPV can cause cervical cancer in women. Cervical cancer is the 2nd leading cause of cancer deaths among women around the world. In the United States, about 12,000 women get cervical cancer every year and about 4,000 are expected to die from it.

HPV is also associated with several less common cancers, such as vaginal and vulvar cancers in women, and anal and oropharyngeal (back of the throat, including base of tongue and tonsils) cancers in both men and women. HPV can also cause genital warts and warts in the throat.

There is no cure for HPV infection, but some of the problems it causes can be treated.

Why get vaccinated?

Gardasil:
Protects against 4 different types of HPV infections.
Is one vaccine that can be given to prevent HPV. It may be given to both males and females. 

This vaccine can prevent most cases of cervical cancer in females, if it is given before exposure to the virus. In addition, it can prevent vaginal and vulvar cancer in females, and genital warts and anal cancer in both males and females.

Protection from HPV vaccine is expected to be longlasting. But vaccination is not a substitute for cervical cancer screening. Women should still get regular Pap tests.

Gardasil-9:
Protects against 9 different types of HPV infections.
Prevents many cancers caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infections, including:

  • cervical cancer in females,
  • vaginal and vulvar cancers in females, and
  • anal cancer in females and males.

In addition to these cancers, Gardasil-9 also prevents genital warts in both females and males. 

In the U.S., about 12,000 women get cervical cancer every year, and about 4,000 women die from it. Gardasil-9 can prevent most of these cancers.

HPV infection usually comes from sexual contact, and most people will become infected at some point in their life. About 14 million Americans get infected every year. Many infections will go away and not cause serious problems. But thousands of women and men get cancer and diseases from HPV.

Gardasil-9 is one of three FDA-approved HPV vaccines. It is recommended for both males and females. It is routinely given at 11 or 12 years of age, but it may be given beginning at age 9 years through age 26 years.

Three doses of Gardasil-9 are recommended with the second and third dose 1-2 months and 6 months after the first dose.

Vaccination is not a substitute for cervical cancer screening. This vaccine does not protect against all HPV types that can cause cervical cancer. Women should still get regular Pap tests.

Who should get HPV vaccine and when?

HPV vaccine is given as a 3-dose series

  • 1st Dose - Now
  • 2nd Dose - 1 to 2 months after Dose 1
  • 3rd Dose - 6 months after Dose 1

Additional (booster) doses are not recommended.

Routine vaccination
This HPV vaccine is recommended for girls and boys 11 or 12 years of age. It may be given starting at age 9.

Why is HPV vaccine recommended at 11 or 12 years of age?

HPV infection is easily acquired, even with only one sex partner. That is why it is important to get HPV vaccine before any sexual contact takes place. Also, response to the vaccine is better at this age than at older ages.

Catch-up vaccination
This vaccine is recommended for the following people who have not completed the 3-dose series:

  • Females 13 through 26 years of age.
  • Males 13 through 21 years of age.

This vaccine may be given to men 22 through 26 years of age who have not completed the 3-dose series.

It is recommended for men through age 26 who have sex with men or whose immune system is weakened because of HIV infection, other illness, or medications.

HPV vaccine may be given at the same time as other vaccines.

Some people should not get this vaccine

  • Anyone who has had a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction to a dose of HPV vaccine should not get another dose.
  • Anyone who has a severe (life threatening) allergy to any component of HPV vaccine should not get the vaccine.

Tell your doctor if you have any severe allergies that you know of, including a severe allergy to yeast.

  • HPV vaccine is not recommended for pregnant women. If you learn that you were pregnant when you were vaccinated, there is no reason to expect any problems for you or the baby. Any woman who learns she was pregnant when she got this HPV vaccine is encouraged to contact the manufacturer’s registry for HPV vaccination during pregnancy at 1-800-986-8999. Women who are breastfeeding may be vaccinated.
  • If you have a mild illness you can probably get the vaccine today. If you are moderately or severely ill, you should probably wait until you recover. Your doctor can advise you.

Risks of a vaccine reaction

With any medicine, including vaccines, there is a chance of side effects. These are usually mild and go away on their own, but serious reactions are also possible.

Most people who get HPV vaccine do not have any problems with it.

Mild or moderate problems

  • Reactions in the arm where the shot was given:
    • Pain (about 9 people in 10)
    • Redness or swelling (about 1 person in 3)
  • Fever:
    • Mild (100°F) (about 1 person in 10)
    • Moderate (102°F) (about 1 person in 65)
  • Other problems:
    • Headache (about 1 person in 3)

Problems that could happen after any vaccine:

  • People sometimes faint after a medical procedure, including vaccination. Sitting or lying down for about 15 minutes can help prevent fainting, and injuries caused by a fall. Tell your doctor if you feel dizzy, or have vision changes or ringing in the ears.
  • Some people get severe pain in the shoulder and have difficulty moving the arm where a shot was given. This happens very rarely.
  • Any medication can cause a severe allergic reaction. Such reactions from a vaccine are very rare, estimated at about 1 in a million doses, and would happen within a few minutes to a few hours after the vaccination.

As with any medicine, there is a very remote chance of a vaccine causing a serious injury or death.

The safety of vaccines is always being monitored. For more information, visit: www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/

What if there is a serious reaction?

What should I look for?
Look for anything that concerns you, such as signs of a severe allergic reaction, very high fever, or unusual behavior.

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 usually start a few minutes to a few hours after the vaccination.

What should I do?
If you think it is a severe allergic reaction or other emergency that can’t wait, call 9-1-1 or get to the nearest hospital. Otherwise, call your doctor.

Afterward, the reaction should be reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). Your doctor might file this report, or you can do it yourself through the VAERS web site at www.vaers.hhs.gov, or by calling 1-800-822-7967.

VAERS does not give medical advice.

The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program

The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) is a federal program that was created to compensate people who may have been injured by certain vaccines.

Persons who believe they may have been injured by a vaccine can learn about the program and about filing a claim by calling 1-800-338-2382 or visiting the VICP website at www.hrsa.gov/vaccinecompensation. There is a time limit to file a claim for compensation.

How can I learn more?

  • Ask your doctor. He or she can give you the vaccine package insert or suggest other sources of information.
  • Call your local or state health department.
  • Contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

*Information from CDC website