HPV vaccine is important because it protects against cancers caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. HPV is a very common virus; nearly 80 million people—about one in four—are currently infected in the United States. About 14 million people, including teens, become infected with HPV each year.
Most people with HPV never develop symptoms or health problems. Most HPV infections (9 out of 10) go away by themselves within two years. But, sometimes, HPV infections will last longer, and can cause certain cancers and other diseases. HPV infection can cause:
- cancers of the cervix, vagina, and vulva in women;
- cancers of the penis in men; and
- cancers of the anus and back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils (oropharynx), in both women and men.
Every year in the United States, HPV causes 30,700 cancers in men and women. HPV vaccination can prevent most of the cancers (about 28,000) from occurring.
When should my child be vaccinated?
All kids who are 11 or 12 years old should get two shots of HPV vaccine six to twelve months apart. Adolescents who receive their two shots less than five months apart will require a third dose of HPV vaccine.
If your teen hasn’t gotten the vaccine yet, talk to their doctor or nurse about getting it for them as soon as possible. If your child is older than 14 years, three shots will need to be given over 6 months. Also, three doses are still recommended for people with certain immunocompromising conditions aged 9 through 26 years.
Who else should get the HPV vaccine?
Teen boys and girls who did not start or finish the HPV vaccine series when they were younger should get it now.
HPV vaccine is recommended for young women through age 26, and young men through age 21. HPV vaccine is also recommended for the following people, if they did not get vaccinated when they were younger:
- young men who have sex with men, including young men who identify as gay or bisexual or who intend to have sex with men through age 26;
- young adults who are transgender through age 26; and
- young adults with certain immunocompromising conditions (including HIV) through age 26.