Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common viral infection that has potentially serious consequences such as genital warts and cervical, vaginal, vulvar, penile, anal, mouth and throat cancer. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted virus in the United States. More than half of the sexually active men and women are infected with HPV at some time in their lives. Most HPV infections don’t cause any symptoms and go away on their own. Still, several types of HPV can be prevented by vaccination.
- HPV vaccines prevent infection but cannot treat infection.
- The ideal age for HPV vaccination is 11 or 12 years in girls and boys; however, they can be given as young as age 9 and up to age 26.
- HPV vaccine is given in a 3-dose series within a 6-month period. It is important to have all 3 doses.
- Three types of HPV vaccines are licensed by the FDA. They all are effective in protecting against the two HPV types that cause most cervical cancer.
- The vaccine can prevent most cases of cervical cancer in females, especially if it is given before exposure to the virus.
- The vaccine can prevent other HPV-associated diseases such as anal, oral and throat cancers, especially when administered before sexual activity begins.
- It is best to give the vaccine before sexual activity begins, but it can be given at any time up to age 26.
- The vaccine can be given if you have already tested positive for HPV or had genital warts.
- Protection from HPV vaccine is expected to be long lasting, but vaccination is not a substitute for cervical cancer screening.
- Studies show that the vaccines are very safe and effective. They do not contain live viruses, so they cannot cause an HPV infection.
According to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) the HPV vaccine is a crucial part of ensuring your and your family’s health.