HPV is very common in the United States — at any given time, about 1 in 4 people have it. Most HPV infections go away on their own, but some last longer — and they can cause cancer or other health problems, like genital warts.
The good news is that the HPV vaccine is very effective at preventing cancer and many other health problems caused by the virus.
HPV infections are so common that nearly all men and women get at least 1 type of HPV at some point in their lives — and the complications can be serious. About 25,000 17,500 women and 20,000 9,300 men get cancer caused by HPV infections in the United States every year. Many of these cancers don’t cause symptoms until they’ve gotten serious and hard to treat.
Getting vaccinated against HPV can protect your child from HPV infections that cause cancer.
HPV is a group of more than 150 viruses. Many people who get HPV have no symptoms. Some people who get HPV develop warts in their genital area.
Some HPV infections don’t go away and can cause cancer, including:
- Cervical cancer
- Cancer inside the vagina (vaginal cancer) or outside the vagina (vulvar cancer)
- Cancer of the penis (penile cancer)
- Cancer of the anus (anal cancer) or rectum (rectal cancer)
- Cancer of the throat (oropharyngeal cancer), including the base of the tongue and tonsils
HPV spreads through intimate skin-to-skin contact. Most of the time, it spreads when a person who has an HPV infection has vaginal, oral, or anal sex. And since HPV may not cause symptoms, people can have it — and spread it to others — without knowing.
Everyone needs to get the HPV vaccine — doctors recommend that boys and girls get the HPV vaccine at age 11 or 12 to take advantage of the best immune response. The HPV vaccine can be routinely given as early as age 9 through age 26, and some adults up to age 45 may get the vaccine after speaking with their healthcare provider.
Preteens and teens ages 9 through 14
Preteens and teens need 2 doses of the HPV vaccine as part of their routine vaccine schedule. They get the second dose about 6 to 12 months after the first dose. Preteens usually get the HPV vaccine at age 11 or 12, though vaccination can start as early as age 9.
Teens and young adults ages 15 through 26
If you didn’t get the HPV vaccine as a preteen, you can still get it. Teens and young adults need 3 doses of the HPV vaccine. They need to get the second dose 1 to 2 months after the first dose — and the third dose 6 months after the first dose.
Adults ages 27 through 45
Some adults older than age 26 may need to get the HPV vaccine, but it is not recommended for everyone. Talk to your doctor about the risk of new HPV infections and possible benefits of vaccination.
You should not get the HPV vaccine if you’ve had a life-threatening allergic reaction to the HPV vaccine or any ingredient in the vaccine.
Be sure to tell your doctor before getting vaccinated if you:
- Have any serious allergies, including an allergy to yeast
- Are pregnant
Side effects are usually mild and go away in a few days. They may include:
- Pain, redness, and swelling where the shot was given
It’s very unlikely that the HPV vaccine could cause a serious reaction. Keep in mind that getting the HPV vaccine is much safer than getting cancer caused by an HPV infection. Learn more about vaccine side effects.
Vaccine Information Statements (VISs) have detailed information about recommended vaccines.