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HPV vaccine

  • Definition
    • The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine protects against infection by certain strains of HPV. Human papillomavirus can cause cervical cancer and genital warts.

      HPV has also been linked to other kinds of cancers, including vaginal, vulvar, penile, anal, mouth, and throat cancers.

  • Alternative Names
    • Vaccine - HPV; Immunization - HPV; Gardasil; HPV2; HPV4; Vaccine to prevent cervical cancer; Genital warts - HPV vaccine; Cervical dysplasia - HPV vaccine; Cervical cancer - HPV vaccine; Cancer of the cervix - HPV vaccine; Abnormal Pap smear - HPV vaccine; Vaccination - HPV vaccine

  • Information
    • HPV is a common virus that is spread through sexual contact. There are several types of HPV. Many types don't cause problems. Some types of HPV can lead to:

      • Cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancer
      • Genital warts
      • Cancer of the penis
      • Cancer of the anus
      • Warts in the throat
      • Cancers of the mouth, tongue, and throat

      Two vaccines are approved by the Food and Drug Administration:

      • HPV4 (Gardasil)
      • HPV9 (Gardasil-9)

      Both vaccines protect against the types of HPV that cause most cases of cervical cancer. Other, less common types of HPV can also cause cervical cancer.

      These vaccines do not treat cervical cancer.


      Either Gardasil or Gardasil-9 is recommended for boys and girls 11 or 12 years old, or starting at 9 years old. The vaccine can be given to people up to 26 years old.

      Gardasil is given as a 3-dose series:

      • First dose: now
      • Second dose: 1 to 2 months after the first dose
      • Third dose: 6 months after the first dose

      Gardasil-9 is given as a 2-dose series to boys and girls 9 through 14 years old:

      • First dose: now
      • Second dose: 6 to 12 months after the first dose
      • If vaccine is given at 15 years or older, 3 doses are recommended

      Pregnant women should not receive this vaccine. However, there have been no problems found in women who received the vaccine during pregnancy, before they knew they were pregnant.


      The most common side effects are fainting, dizziness, nausea, headache, and skin reactions at the site where the shot was given.


      The HPV vaccine does not protect against all types of HPV that can lead to cervical cancer. Girls and women should still receive regular screening (Pap test) to look for precancerous changes and early signs of cervical cancer.

      The HPV vaccine does not protect against other infections that can be spread during sexual contact.

      Talk to your provider if:

      • You are not sure whether you or your child should receive the HPV vaccine
      • You or your child develops complications or severe symptoms after getting an HPV vaccine
      • You have other questions or concerns about the HPV vaccine
  • References
    • American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Committee opinion No. 641: human papillomavirus vaccination. Obstet Gynecol. 2015;126(3):e38-e43. PMID: 26287792

      CDC recommends only two HPV shots for younger adolescents [press release]. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Media Relations; October 19, 2016. Accessed December 7, 2016.

      Committee on Infectious Diseases. Policy Statement: HPV vaccine recommendations. Pediatrics. 2012;129(3):602-605. PMID: 22371460

      Kim DK, Bridges CB, Harriman KH; Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). Advisory committee on immunization practices recommended immunization schedule for adults aged 19 years or older: United States, 2016. Ann Intern Med. 2016;164(3):184-194. PMID: 26829913

      Robinson CL; Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), ACIP Child/Adolescent Immunization Work Group. Advisory committee on immunization practices recommended immunization schedules for persons aged 0 through 18 years -- United States, 2016. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2016;65(4):86-87. PMID: 26845283