HPV Vaccine: Facts and Fears

Vaccines to prevent human papilloma virus (HPV) infections are safe and effective. They can protect girls and boys from getting several different types of cancer when they get older. The American Cancer Society recommends the vaccine as one way to keep more people from getting cancer. HPV vaccines protect against high-risk types of the virus that cause most cervical cancers. The virus is also linked to cancers of the vulva, vagina, penis, anus, and throat. 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 safe.

Years of studying people who have had the HPV vaccine show that it is safe. The HPV vaccine may make some people dizzy and nauseated when it is injected, but it hardly ever causes bad side effects. More than 80 million doses of the HPV vaccine have been given in the US with no serious problems.

Fact 2: The HPV vaccine causes no bad side effects.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have found no proof that HPV vaccines cause bad side effects. Like other vaccines, there may be common temporary side effects like pain, redness, and/or swelling where the shot was given. In rare cases, a person may have an allergic reaction to certain vaccines if they’re allergic to yeast or latex.

Fact 3: The HPV vaccine does not cause fertility problems.

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 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, water, and even breast milk. Every day, babies, children, and adults come into contact with more aluminum than what’s in the vaccine.

Fact 5: Getting the HPV vaccine is not opening the door to having sex.

Vaccines are used to help prevent diseases. They’re most useful when given before you come in contact with a virus. Young teens build more antibodies against the HPV vaccine (see Fact 8) and are less likely to already have HPV. So it’s better to get vaccinated as a teen than to wait to get it later.

Getting the HPV vaccine does not lead to changes in sexual behavior. The age when teens start having sex, the risk of sexually transmitted diseases, and number of pregnancies are much the same when comparing teens who have been vaccinated to those who have not.

HPV is so common that almost everyone will come in contact with it at some point in their lives. Even if someone waits until marriage to have sex, they could still get infected with HPV if their partner had previous contact. Vaccinating your child against HPV helps protect them.

Fact 6: The HPV vaccine is for both males and females.

Both males and females can get infected with HPV. About 8 or 9 out of 10 sexually active adults will have at least one type of HPV in their lifetime. Many people know that cervical cancer is caused by HPV. But there are cancers found in men that are linked to HPV infection. These include cancer of the anus, penis, throat, and tongue.

HPV vaccines are strongly recommended for boys and girls to help protect against HPV-linked cancers and genital warts. The HPV vaccine helps reduce the spread of HPV in both males and females.

Fact 7: The HPV vaccine works and can help prevent cervical cancer.

The HPV vaccine protects against almost all cervix HPV infections and pre-cancers.

Studies have shown that HPV vaccines can prevent infections and pre-cancers caused by HPV. Women in the United States, along with women in other countries that give the HPV vaccine, have fewer cervix changes and fewer cases of genital warts.

Fact 8: 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 master’s-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Medical Review: February 11, 2016 Last Revised: February 11, 2016

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