Who Should Get the HPV Vaccination and Why

nurse puts bandaid on teen girl's arm after vaccination

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the US according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It’s so common that nearly all sexually active people will have it at some point in their lives. In most cases, HPV goes away on its own and does not cause any health problems. But when HPV does not go away, it can cause genital warts and cancer. Almost all cervical cancer is caused by HPV. The virus has also been linked to cancers of the vulvavaginapenisanus, and throat.

HPV vaccination protects girls and boys

HPV vaccines prevent infection by certain types of the virus, but they work best if they are given before an infection occurs. This is why the American Cancer Society recommends it for girls and boys ages 11 to 12 – because the vaccines produce the strongest immune response at this age, and because most children at this age have not yet become sexually active. This is also an age when children still will be seeing their doctor regularly and getting other vaccinations.

The HPV vaccines prevent the 2 types of HPV that cause 70% of all cervical cancers and pre-cancers, as well as many cancers of the vulva, vagina, anus, and throat. They also help prevent infection by the 2 types of HPV that cause most genital warts. The vaccines are given as a series of shots.

The American Cancer Society recommends:

  • Routine HPV vaccination for girls and boys should be started at age 11 or 12. The vaccination series can be started as early as age 9.
  • HPV vaccination is also recommended 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. Males 22 to 26 years old may also be vaccinated.*
  • HPV vaccination is also recommended through age 26 for men who have sex with men and for people with weakened immune systems (including people with HIV infection), if they have not previously been vaccinated.

*For people 22 to 26 years old who have not started the vaccines, or who have started but not completed the series, it’s important to know that vaccination at older ages is less effective in lowering cancer risk.

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.


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