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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. HPV is easily spread, especially among teens and preteens—by intimate sexual contact including skin-to-skin contact. Most people who become infected with HPV get it within 2-3 years of their first sexual activity. Even someone who waits until marriage for sex and only has one partner can still get HPV.

Most of the time, the body naturally suppresses HPV, but each year in the United States, over 35,000 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?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children get 2 doses of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine at ages 11 to 12, or 3 doses during the teen years they missed getting it earlier.

All adolescents are also recommended to get the Tdap (which prevents tetanus,diphtheria, and pertussis), and meningococcal vaccine, which can help protect against meningitis

Studies show that these vaccines 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 two doses of HPV vaccines by age 14 have much lower rates of cervical pre-cancer and genital warts than those who are vaccinated later. Preteens 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?

The HPV vaccine is now approved in a 2 dose schedule, 6 to 12 months apart, for teens less than 15 years of age. If the vaccine is started at age 15 or later, then the 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.  

HPV cancer prevention

Last Updated
Adapted from the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD) - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
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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