Learning About the HPV Vaccine

Skip Navigation

What is the HPV vaccine?

The HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine protects against HPV. HPV is a common sexually transmitted infection (STI). There are many types of HPV. Some types of the virus can cause genital warts. Other types can cause cervical or oral cancer and some uncommon cancers, such as anal and vaginal cancer.

The HPV vaccine is given as a series of shots.

Who should get the vaccine?

Experts recommend that children age 11 or 12 get the HPV vaccine, but the vaccine can be given from age 9 to 26. If you are age 27 to 45 and have not been vaccinated for HPV, ask your doctor if getting the vaccine is right for you.

Children ages 9 to 14 get the vaccine in a series of two shots. Some children may need a third dose. Anyone age 15 years and older gets the vaccine as a three-dose series. For the vaccine to work best, all shots in the series must be given.

What else do you need to know?

The best time for a person to get the vaccine is before becoming sexually active. This is because the vaccine works best before there is any chance of infection with HPV. When the vaccine is given at this time, it can prevent almost all infection by the types of HPV the vaccine guards against.

Having the HPV vaccine does not change your need for Pap tests. Women who have had the HPV vaccine should follow the same Pap test schedule as women who have not had the vaccine.

If you are a parent of a child who's getting the shot, talk to your child about HPV and the vaccine. It's a chance to teach your child about safer sex and STIs. Having your child get the shot doesn't mean you're giving your child permission to have sex.

The vaccine can have side effects. Common side effects from the vaccine include headache, fever, and redness or swelling at the site of the shot. More serious side effects, such as fainting, are rare.

  • Take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), to relieve common side effects. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Put ice or a cold pack on the sore area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.

Where can you learn more?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

Enter K492 in the search box to learn more about "Learning About the HPV Vaccine".

The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.