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Are Your Kids Protected from Cancer Caused by HPV?

​Preteens and teens need the HPV vaccine now to prevent HPV-related cancers later. 

What is HPV?

HPV is short for human papillomavirus, a virus that is extremely common. Most of the time, the body naturally suppresses HPV, but each year in the United States, about 26,000 men and women suffer from cancers caused by HPV—and 4,000 women die from cervical cancer every year. Most of these cancers could be prevented by vaccination with HPV vaccine.

When can kids get the HPV vaccine?

HPV vaccine is recommended for both girls and boys at ages 11-12 years. All adolescents are recommended to get three shots at this age: HPV, Tdap (which prevents tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis), and meningococcal vaccine, which can help protect against meningitis. Studies show that these shots are safe and effective when given at the same time.

Why does my child need the HPV vaccine now?

Studies show that kids who complete all three doses of HPV vaccines by age 14 have much lower rates of cervical pre-cancer and genital warts than those who are vaccinated later.  Pre-teens make more antibodies from the vaccine shots, which may translate into better protection. See Vaccinating Your Preteen: Addressing Common Concerns for additional information.

Is the HPV vaccine safe?

The HPV vaccine has a very good safety record. More than 170 million doses have been distributed, and there have been no serious safety concerns. The vaccine continues to be monitored for safety in over 80 countries around the world.

What are the side effects from the HPV vaccine?

As with any vaccine, a child might have pain or redness in the arm after the injection. Some preteens and teens can faint after any type of procedure, so it’s a good idea to have them sit in the doctor’s office or waiting room for about 15 minutes after any shot.

Does my child need to get all 3 shots?

HPV vaccines are given in a series of 3 shots over a six-month period.  For the best protection, it is important for your child to get all 3 shots. Before you leave the doctor’s office after the first one, ask to schedule the next one.


Take advantage of any visit to the doctor—checkups, sick visits, even physicals for sports or college—to ask the doctor about what shots your preteens and teens need. If your son or daughter is older than 11 or 12 and has not started these shots, it is not too late to schedule an appointment to begin the series.

You have the chance to protect your children now against HPV-related cancers in the future.

Additional Information:

Last Updated
Copyright © 2013 National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Updated 5/2015
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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