The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends the vaccination of females aged 9–26 years against HPV, with the initial vaccination target of females aged 11 or 12 years. The vaccine is most effective if administered prior to active infection with HPV. A “catch up” vaccination is recommended for adolescents and young women aged 13–26 years who have not already received the vaccine or completed the series. Getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent diseases caused by HPV infection. Pregnant women should wait until after delivery to get the vaccine. The vaccine works best in men before age 21 years.
There are two HPV vaccines available. Both vaccines protect against some cancers caused by HPV. Cervarix protects against HPV types 16 and 18. Gardasil protects against HPV types 6, 11, 16, and 18. This vaccine also protects against genital warts. Both vaccines are given in three doses over a 6-month period. All three doses are needed to build up enough protection against diseases caused by HPV infection. The vaccines work best if given before getting infected with HPV. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends the first vaccine at age 11 or 12 years.
The HPV vaccines do not protect against all HPV types and do not prevent all cancer caused by HPV. The HPV vaccines do not cause serious side effects. The most common side effect is pain where the shot was given. Some people have mild fever, dizziness, or nausea.
Safety data for both HPV vaccines are reassuring. According to the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System, more than 57 million doses of HPV vaccine have been distributed, and there are no data to suggest that there are any severe side effects or adverse reactions linked to vaccination. Ongoing surveillance of HPV vaccine side effects—which include syncope, nausea, headache, dizziness, and local pain and redness—shows no new, unexpected adverse reactions.
A Vaccine Information Statement (VIS) is a document, produced by CDC, that informs vaccine recipients - or their parents or legal representatives - about the benefits and risks of a vaccine they are receiving. Visit the CDC’s website to view the VIS statements for the three available HPV vaccines.