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Who should get the HPV vaccine and why?

January 03, 2020
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HPV (human papillomavirus) is a very common virus. Spread through sexual contact, it’s estimated that nearly 80 million Americans currently have the HPV virus and an additional 14 million people become newly infected every year.

In most cases, the body is able to fight off HPV without a person even realizing they have it. But a lingering virus can result in some kinds of cancers and/or genital warts. While there is no cure for HPV, a vaccine can provide safe and effective protection.

What does the HPV vaccine protect against?

There are over 150 strains of HPV. The HPV vaccine provides protection against the strains that most commonly cause cervical cancer and oral-pharyngeal HPV cancer and cancers of the vulva, vagina, anus, mouth, and throat. In addition, it protects against the types of HPV that cause most genital warts and laryngeal papillomatosis.

How do you get HPV?

HPV is the most commonly transmitted sexual infection in the United States and transmitted through sexual contact, including oral, vaginal, or anal contact. In very rare cases, it may be transmitted to an infant during childbirth.

Who should get vaccinated and when?

Because HPV is sexually transmitted, the vaccine works best when given before someone becomes sexually active. The vaccine is now recommended for boys and girls/men and women up to age 26. The vaccine can be given safely as early as age 9 for a lifetime of prevention from the virus and the cancers it causes. The younger the patient is when they receive it, the better the protection they have against the virus.

The American Cancer Society also recommends a ‘catch-up HPV vaccine’ for females 13 to 26 years old and for males 13 to 21 years old who have not started the vaccines, or who have started but not completed the series.

The vaccine is NOT recommended for pregnant women or any person who is moderately or severely ill. If you are severely allergic to any of the components of the vaccine (ask your provider for details), you should not get the vaccine.

The vaccine is NOT recommended for pregnant women or any person who is moderately or severely ill. If you are severely allergic to any of the components of the vaccine (ask your provider for details), you should not get the vaccine.

Is the vaccine safe?

First introduced in 2006, the HPV vaccine has been extensively tested and studied and found to be safe. As with any vaccine or medication, there are potential side effects. These most commonly include pain or swelling at the injection site, headache, fatigue, or nausea.

As uncomfortable as these potential side effects might be, the potentially life-saving benefit of the vaccine far outweighs the temporary discomfort.

Speak to your doctor

Learn more about HPV prevention from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). If you have questions or concerns about the vaccine for either yourself or your child, speak to your healthcare provider.