FAQs about HPV

Who is at risk of getting HPV?

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection, so anyone who has ever been sexually active is at risk. HPV is a virus passed from one person to another during skin-to-skin sexual contact, including vaginal, oral, and anal sex. Even a person who has only had one partner is at risk.

How many people even get HPV?

Around 79 million people in the U.S. have already gotten HPV and about 14 million new infections occur every year. In addition, each year in the United States there are approximately 17,500 women and 9,300 men affected by HPV-related cancers. HPV leads to approximately 11,000 cases of cervical cancer per year killing more than 4,000 women.

What if my child is not sexually active?

The HPV vaccine is most effective when the complete 2-shot series is given before any sexual activity begins, which is one reason the vaccine is recommended for boys and girls between the ages of 11 and 12. Also, the HPV vaccine produces the highest immune response at this age. Regardless of the when your child becomes sexually active, vaccination is important because the number of people who get HPV infections is staggering:

Isn’t getting my child vaccinated against HPV like giving them permission to have sex?

No. Although some parents are concerned that vaccinating a child for a sexually-transmitted disease is like giving them permission to have sex, you can be reassured that research shows that HPV vaccination has had no notable difference in the markers of sexual activity, which includes pregnancies, counseling on contraceptives, and testing and diagnosis of sexually transmitted infections. In other words, the vaccine does not appear to be changing sexual behaviors, only protecting those when they eventually engage in them.

Is the vaccine still effective if someone has already become sexually active?

Even if someone has already had sex, they should still get HPV vaccine. While HPV infection usually happens soon after someone has sex for the first time, a person might not be exposed to any or all of the HPV types that are in the vaccine. Males and females in the age groups recommended for vaccination are likely to get at least some protection from the

I’ve read some bad things about the HPV vaccine online. Are HPV vaccines safe and effective?

It’s understandable that parents may be hesitant. There is a lot of inaccurate information about the safety of the HPV vaccine circulating online. However, you can be confident that the HPV vaccine is safe and effective. The HPV vaccine went through years of testing before being licensed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The vaccine was studied in thousands of people around the world, and these studies showed no serious safety concerns. Side effects reported in these studies were mild, including pain where the shot was given, fever, dizziness, and nausea. No serious side effects have ever been associated with HPV vaccines. As with all approved vaccines, the CDC and the FDA continue to closely monitor the safety of the HPV vaccine after it was licensed. Any problems detected with this vaccine would be reported to public health officials, healthcare providers and the public. More than 60 million doses of HPV vaccine have been distributed in the United States as of March 2014.

The HPV vaccine targets the HPV types that most commonly cause cervical cancer and can cause some cancers of the vulva, vagina, anus, and oropharynx. It also protects against the HPV types that cause most genital warts. The HPV vaccine is highly effective in preventing the targeted HPV types, as well as the most common health problems caused by them.

The vaccine is less effective in preventing HPV-related disease in people who have already been exposed to one or more HPV types. That is because the vaccine prevents HPV before a person is exposed to it. The HPV vaccine does not treat existing HPV infections or HPV-associated diseases.

How long will the HPV vaccine provide protection?

According to data from clinical trials and ongoing research, protection produced by the HPV vaccine lasts at least 10 years. Research suggests that vaccine protection is long-lasting.