Your Child's Immunizations: Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccine
What Is HPV?
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted disease (STD). It can cause genital warts and changes in the cervix that can result in cervical cancer. It can also lead to cancer in other areas, such as the penis, anus, vagina, vulva, and throat. Recent research suggests it may even be linked to cardiovascular disease in women.
HPV Immunization Schedule
The vaccine is recommended for girls and boys 11 or 12 years old, as well as for older kids who are unvaccinated. If needed, kids can get the vaccine starting at age 9.
The vaccine is given as a series of shots:
- For children ages 9-14, it is given in two shots over a 6- to 12-month period.
- For teens and young adults (ages 15–26 in girls and 15–21 in boys), it's given in three shots over a 6-month period. Young adults who are at higher risk of getting infected can get it up to age 26.
Why Is the HPV Vaccine Recommended?
Because HPV can cause serious problems such as genital warts and some types of cancer, a vaccine is an important step in preventing infection and protecting against the spread of HPV. It works best when given before someone becomes sexually active.
The HPV vaccine doesn't protect against all types of HPV, so girls and women who are sexually active should still see their gynecologist regularly, use condoms, and get pap smears as recommended by their doctor (usually starting age 21).
Possible Risks of the HPV Vaccine
The most common side effects are mild fever and tenderness, swelling, and redness at the injection site. Dizziness, fainting, nausea, and vomiting also can follow a shot. Allergic reactions to the vaccine are rare.
When to Delay or Avoid HPV Immunization
The vaccine is not recommended if:
- your child is currently sick, although simple colds or other minor illnesses should not prevent immunization
- your child had a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to the first dose of HPV vaccine or has a yeast allergy
- your daughter is pregnant (she can receive it after she gives birth)
Caring for Your Child After HPV Immunization
Your child may have a fever, soreness, and some swelling and redness in the area where the shot was given. For pain and fever, check with your doctor to see if you can give either acetaminophen or ibuprofen, and follow the directions carefully.
When Should I Call the Doctor?
- Call if you aren't sure if the vaccine should be postponed or avoided.
- Call if there are problems after the immunization.