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HPV Vaccine Information for Parents

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Sep.15.2023
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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 (HPV) is a common virus. It spreads easily from person to person through skin-to-skin or sexual contact. There are many types of HPV viruses. Genital or mucosal HPV can cause warts in the genitals. Cutaneous or nonmucosal HPV can cause warts on the hands or feet. Some genital HPV types may cause cancer.

Your child can get a shot to help prevent the HPV types that can cause cancer, genital warts, or warts near the opening of the butt (anus). The vaccine is safe and effective. It is recommended that your child get the vaccine at about 11–12 years of age. Getting the vaccine before your child is sexually active gives them the best protection from HPV through adulthood.

How can HPV affect my child?

An infection with HPV can cause:
  • Genital warts.
  • Mouth or throat cancer.
  • Cancer of the anus.
  • Cancer of the lowest part of the uterus (cervix), outer female genital area (vulva), or vagina.
  • Cancer of the penis (penile cancer).

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

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

Have your child get the HPV vaccine before they become sexually active. The best time to get the shot is at around 11–12 years of age. The vaccine may be given to children as young as 9 years old.

If your child gets the vaccine before they are 15 years old, it can be given as 2 shots, 6–12 months apart. In some cases, 3 doses are needed. Your child may need 3 doses if:
  • They get the first dose before they are 15 years old but do not have a second dose within 6–12 months after the first dose.
  • They get their first dose after they are 15 years old. They will need to get the other 2 doses within 6 months of the first dose.
  • They have a weak body defense system (immune system).

What are the risks and benefits of the HPV vaccine?

Benefits

Getting the vaccine can help prevent certain cancers. These include:
  • Oral cancer. This is cancer of the mouth.
  • Anal cancer. This is cancer of the anus.
  • Cancers of the cervix, vulva, and vagina in females.
  • Penile cancer in males.

Your child is less likely to get these cancers if they get the vaccine before they become sexually active.

The vaccine also prevents genital warts caused by HPV.

Risks

In rare cases, side effects and reactions have been reported. These include:
  • Soreness, redness, or swelling at the injection site.
  • Dizziness or fainting.
  • Fever.
  • Headache.
  • Muscle or joint pain.

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

Some children should not get the HPV vaccine or should wait to get it. Ask the health care provider if your child should get the vaccine if:
  • Your child has had a severe allergic reaction to other vaccines.
  • Your child is allergic to yeast.
  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child has had a recent illness.
  • Your child is pregnant or may be pregnant.

Where to find more information

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.

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