HPV Vaccine Information for Parents

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HPV Vaccine Information for Parents

HPV Vaccine Information for Parents

A person receiving a shot in the upper arm.

Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is a common virus that spreads easily from person to person through skin-to-skin or sexual contact. There are many types of HPV viruses. They can cause warts in the genitals (genital or mucosal HPV), or on the hands or feet (cutaneous or nonmucosal HPV). Some genital HPV types are considered high-risk and may cause cancer.

Your child can get a vaccination to help prevent certain HPV infections that can cause cancer as well as those types that cause genital and anal warts. The vaccine is safe and effective. It is recommended for boys and girls at about 11–12 years of age. Getting the vaccine at this age (before he or she is sexually active) gives your child the best protection from HPV infection through adulthood.

How can HPV affect my child?

HPV infection can cause:
  • Genital warts.
  • Mouth or throat cancer.
  • Anal cancer.
  • Cervical, vulvar, or vaginal cancer.
  • Penile cancer.

During pregnancy, HPV infection can be passed to the baby. This infection can cause warts to develop in a baby's throat and mouth.

What actions can I take to lower my child's risk for HPV?

To lower your child's risk for genital HPV infection, have him or her get the HPV vaccine before becoming sexually active. The best time for vaccination is between ages 11 and 12, though it can be given to children as young as 9 years old. If your child gets the first dose before age 15, the vaccination can be given as 2 shots, 6–12 months apart. In some situations, 3 doses are needed.
  • If your child starts the vaccine before age 15 but does not have a second dose within 6–12 months after the first dose, he or she will need 3 doses to complete the vaccination. When your child has the first dose, it is important to make an appointment for the next shot and keep the appointment.
  • Teens who are not vaccinated before age 15 will need 3 doses, within six months of the first dose.
  • If your child has a weak immune system, he or she may need 3 doses.

What are the risks and benefits of the HPV vaccine?


The main benefit of getting vaccinated is to prevent certain cancers, including:
  • Cervical, vulvar, and vaginal cancer in females.
  • Penile cancer in males.
  • Oral and anal cancer in both males and females.

The risk of these cancers is lower if your child gets vaccinated before he or she becomes sexually active.

The vaccine also prevents genital warts caused by HPV.


The risks, although low, include side effects or reactions to the vaccine. Very few reactions have been reported, but they can include:
  • Soreness, redness, or swelling at the injection site.
  • Dizziness or fainting.
  • Fever.
  • Nausea.
  • Muscle or joint pain.

Who should not get the HPV vaccine or should wait to get it?

Some children should not get the HPV vaccine or should wait. Discuss the risks and benefits of the vaccine with your child's health care provider if your child:
  • Has had a severe allergic reaction to other vaccinations.
  • Is allergic to yeast.
  • Has a fever.
  • Has had a recent illness.
  • Is pregnant or may be pregnant.

Where to find more information


  • HPV is a common virus that spreads from person to person through skin-to-skin or sexual contact. It can spread during vaginal, anal, or oral sex.
  • Your child can get a vaccination to prevent HPV infection and cancer. It is best to get the vaccination before becoming sexually active.
  • The HPV vaccine can protect your child from genital warts and certain types of cancer, including cancer of the cervix, throat, mouth, vulva, vagina, anus, and penis.
  • The HPV vaccine is both safe and effective.

This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your health care provider. Make sure you discuss any questions you have with your health care provider.