What is HPV?
Human papillomaviruses (HPV) are very common. Nearly 80% of people in the U.S. will get an HPV infection in their lifetime. HPV can be passed to others even when an infected person has no signs or symptoms. HPV can be spread just by genital contact, and condoms don’t prevent the spread.
Most people with HPV never develop symptoms or health problems. Most HPV infections go away by themselves within two years. But, sometimes, HPV infections will last longer, and can cause certain cancers or other diseases. HPV is the leading cause of cervical, anal, penis, and head/neck cancers.
HPV vaccine is a cancer prevention vaccination that has been available in the US since 2006. It works best when you get the vaccine before you ever have any sexual contact. The HPV vaccine is recommended for everyone ages 9 to 26 years old; most people get it during a middle school check-up, along with their meningitis and tetanus/whooping cough (TdaP) boosters. It is approved for people up to 45 years old. Depending on your age, you may need 2 or 3 vaccines.
When can people get HPV the vaccine?
The HPV vaccine can be given at the same time as the vaccines required for entering 7th grade in Maryland, Tdap and meningitis.
HPV vaccination is recommended by the CDC, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine.
Children’s Vaccination Clinics at the Health Department
Interested in getting the vaccine? If you are under the age of 19 and have medical assistance or no insurance, you may be eligible for the Vaccines for Children program https://cchd.maryland.gov/health-services-vaccines-for-children/
If you are over the age of 19 and you have insurance, most of the local pharmacies carry the vaccine.
Don’t have insurance? Fill out the enrollment form at https://www.merckhelps.com/GARDASIL%209 and call the CCHD Reproductive Health program at 410-876-4930 to see about getting the vaccine for a reduced price.
Why does my child need the HPV vaccine when they are young?
HPV is recommended for boys and girls ages 11 through 12 for several reasons. Young adults need the HPV vaccine before they are exposed to HPV. Preteens make more antibodies in response to the shot, which may lead to a higher level of protection. Because of this response, children ages 9-14 only need two doses of the HPV vaccine, at least 6 months apart.
HPV Vaccine FAQs from the American Academy of Pediatrics addresses common concerns such as age at vaccination, vaccinating boys, sexual activity, affording the vaccine, and more.
Vaccination for teens and adults
Teens and young adults who start the series at age 15 and older need three doses of HPV vaccine. Also, three doses are still recommended for people with certain immunocompromising conditions aged 9 through 26 years. The HPV vaccine is approved for adults up to age 45 but is not always covered by insurance.
Are HPV vaccines safe and effective?
The vaccine is safe and effective, and studies show it offers long lasting protection against several common cancers caused by the HPV virus. It continues to be monitored by CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). No serious safety concerns have been linked to HPV vaccination.
Many people who get the HPV vaccine have no side effects at all. Some people report having very mild side effects, like a sore arm from the shot. The most common side effects are usually mild.
Common side effects of HPV vaccine:
- Pain, redness, or swelling in the arm where the shot was given
- Headache or feeling tired
- Muscle or joint pain
For more information:
Are Your Kids Protected from Cancer Caused by HPV? – from the American Academy of Pediatrics
HPV Vaccines: Vaccinating Your Preteen or Teen – from the CDC