FAQ

Q: Why is the vaccine recommended at such a young age?

A: For HPV vaccines to be effective, they should be given prior to exposure to HPV. Preteens should receive all recommended doses of the HPV vaccine series long before they begin any type of sexual activity and are exposed to HPV. The HPV vaccine produces a higher immune response in preteens than it does in older teens and young adults.

Q: Should boys get HPV vaccine too?

A: Yes. This vaccine helps prevent boys from getting infected with the types of HPV than can cause cancers of the throat, penis and anus. The vaccine also prevents genital warts. When boys are vaccinated, they are less likely to spread HPV to their current and future partners.

Q: How well does HPV vaccine work?

A: The HPV vaccine works extremely well.  Clinical trials showed the vaccines provided close to 100% protection against precancers and for HPV9, genital warts. Since the vaccine was first recommended in 2006, there has been a 56% reduction in HPV infections among teen girls in the US, even with very low HPV vaccination rates. Research has also shown that fewer teens are getting genital warts. In other countries such as Australia where there is higher HPV vaccination coverage, HPV vaccine has also reduced the number of cases of precancers of the cervix in young women in that country. Also, genital warts decreased dramatically in young women and men in Australia since the HPV vaccine was introduced.

Q: Does someone have to restart the HPV vaccine series if too much time passes between the shots?

A: For persons initiating vaccination before their 15th birthday, the recommended immunization schedule is 2 doses of HPV vaccine. The second dose should be administered 6–12 months after the first dose (0, 6–12 month schedule.) For persons initiating vaccination on or after their 15th birthday, the recommended immunization schedule is 3 doses of HPV vaccine. The second dose should be administered 1–2 months after the first dose, and the third dose should be administered 6 months after the first dose (0, 1–2, 6 month schedule.) However, if someone waits longer than that between shots, they do not need to restart the series. Even if has been months or years since the last shot, the series should still be completed.

Q: How do we know that HPV vaccine is safe?

A: All vaccines used in the United States are required to go through years of extensive safety testing before they are licensed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Once in use, they are continually monitored for their safety and effectiveness. CDC uses three systems to monitor and evaluate the safety of vaccines after they are licensed.

Studies have been conducted to determine the safety of HPV vaccines. However, there were no serious safety concerns confirmed in any of these studies. The findings of HPV vaccine safety studies are similar to the safety reviews of the other adolescent vaccines, Tdap and meningococcal vaccines. In the years of HPV vaccine safety studies and monitoring that have been conducted since the vaccine was licensed in 2006, no serious safety concerns have been causally associated with HPV vaccination.

Q: What are the side effects of HPV vaccine and how often do these side effects occur?

A: The most commonly reported symptoms among females and males are similar, including injection-site reactions (such as pain, redness, or swelling in the area of the upper arm where the vaccine is given), dizziness, fainting, nausea, and headache. Brief fainting spells and related symptoms (such as jerking movements) can happen after any medical procedure, including vaccination. Recent data suggest that fainting after any vaccination is more common in adolescents. Sitting or lying down for about 15 minutes after a vaccination can help prevent fainting and injuries caused by falls. Tell your doctor if the patient feels dizzy or light-headed, or has vision changes or ringing in the ears. Life-threatening allergic reactions from vaccines are very rare. If they do occur, it would be within a few minutes to a few hours after the vaccination.

Q: Will the vaccine cause cancer?

A: The HPV vaccine is made from one protein from the virus that cannot cause HPV infection or cancer.

Q: Will the vaccine cause fertility issues?

A: There are no data to suggest that getting HPV vaccine will have an effect on future fertility. In fact, getting vaccinated and protecting against cervical cancer can protect a woman’s ability to get pregnant and have healthy babies.  It is possible that the treatment of cervical cancer could leave a woman unable to have children. It is also possible that treatment for cervical pre-cancer could put a woman at risk for problems with her cervix, which could cause preterm delivery or other problems. 

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