HPV Vaccine Facts

Vaccines to prevent human papillomavirus (HPV) infections continue to be shown that they are safe and effective. The American Cancer Society recommends the vaccine as one way to keep more people from getting cancer. HPV vaccination is cancer prevention.

However, myths and rumors shared on social media, blogs, and alternative health websites make claims that may scare people away from this life-saving vaccine. The medical experts at the American Cancer Society have put together a list of facts about the HPV vaccine. If you have questions that are not answered here, please call us at 1-800-227-2345. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to help you.

Fact 1: The vaccine is effective for cancer prevention.

Studies continue to prove HPV vaccination works extremely well. It has decreased the number of HPV infections and HPV pre-cancers in young people since it has been available. Since HPV is known to cause cancer in men and women, the vaccine can help prevent these cancers in boys and girls when they get older.

Fact 2: The vaccine is safe.

The HPV vaccine has been on the market since 2006. The vaccines went through extensive safety testing before becoming available. Vaccine safety is always being monitored. More than 270 million doses of the HPV vaccine have been given worldwide, including 100 million doses in the U.S. Studies continue to show it is very safe.

Like any medication or injection, there may be common mild side effects like headache or fever. There can be pain, redness, and/or swelling where the shot was given. A person may have a more serious side effect, such as an allergic reaction or fainting when the vaccine is given. Adolescents who have a severe allergy to yeast or any other ingredient in the vaccine should not receive the HPV vaccine.

Fact 3: The HPV vaccine is a series of shots for boys and girls.

The HPV vaccine is strongly recommended for boys and girls. It can protect them from infection with the most common types of HPV that can cause cancer when they get older. HPV is known to cause most cervical cancers and is also linked to cancers of the vulva, vagina, penis, anus, and throat.

Since vaccines are used to help prevent diseases, children are vaccinated before being exposed to an infection. HPV vaccination should start at age 11 or 12 to offer the most HPV cancer prevention. HPV is so common that almost everyone will come in contact with it at some point in their lives. Vaccinating your child against HPV helps protect them.

The HPV vaccine is a series of 2 shots given 6 to 12 months apart for children ages 11 or 12. The series should be complete by age 13. Talk to your child's doctor about how the series of shots may be different if your child is 13 or older.

Fact 4: The HPV vaccine does not contain harmful ingredients.

Some parents are worried about vaccine ingredients, one being aluminum. There is aluminum in the HPV vaccine, but it’s a safe amount. Aluminum-containing vaccines have been used for years and in more than 1 billion people. In fact – we come in contact with aluminum every day. It’s in foods we eat, utensils we use, water we drink, and it's even in breast milk. Every day, babies, children, and adults come into contact with more aluminum than what’s in the vaccine.

Fact 5: The HPV vaccine does not cause fertility issues.

Research has not shown that HPV vaccines cause fertility problems (problems having kids). The vaccine can help protect women from future fertility problems linked to cervical cancer. The HPV vaccine is a safe way to help protect health and the ability to have healthy babies.

Fact 6: The HPV vaccine lasts a long time – maybe forever.

If your child gets the HPV vaccine they will make proteins called antibodies that fight the virus. Antibodies give strong and long-lasting protection. While there’s no sign that this protection will go down over time, studies are being done to watch this.

Current studies suggest that the vaccine protection lasts a long time. If studies show that protection drops, a booster shot may be needed, just like some other vaccines.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Human Papillomavirus. Accessed June 5, 2018 at https://www.cdc.gov/hpv/index.html

Jhingran A, Russel AH, Seiden MV, et al. Cancers of the cervix, vagina and vulva. In: Niederhuber JE, Armitage JO, Doroshow JH, et al. Clinical Oncology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa; Elsevier; 2014: 1534-1574.

Klopp AH, Eifel PJ, Berek JS, Konstantinopoulos PA. Cancer of the cervix, vagina, and vulva. In: DeVita VT, Hellman S, Rosenberg SA, eds. Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology, 10th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2015: Chapter 72.

Saslow D, Andrews KS, Manassaram-Baptiste D, et al. Human papillomavirus vaccination guideline update: American Cancer Society guideline endorsement. CA Cancer J Clin. 2016; 66:5.

Last Medical Review: February 11, 2016 Last Revised: June 5, 2018

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