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Your Child's Immunizations: Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that causes genital warts and changes in the cervix that can result in cervical cancer. It can also lead to cancer in other areas, such as the penis, anus, and throat. Recent research suggests it may even be linked to cardiovascular disease in women.

Immunization Schedule

The vaccine is given as a series of three shots over a 6-month period. It is recommended for girls and boys 11 or 12 years old, as well as for older kids who are unvaccinated.

Because HPV can cause serious problems such as genital warts and some types of cancer, a vaccine is an important step in preventing infection and protecting against the spread of HPV. It works best when given before someone becomes sexually active.

Possible Risks

Side effects are usually mild fever and tenderness, swelling, and redness at the site of the injection. Dizziness, fainting, nausea, and vomiting also may occur after the shot. Allergic reactions to the vaccine are rare.

When to Delay or Avoid Immunization

The vaccine is not recommended if:

  • your child is currently sick, although simple colds or other minor illnesses should not prevent immunization
  • your child had a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to the first dose of HPV vaccine or has a yeast allergy
  • your daughter is pregnant

Caring for Your Child After Immunization

Your child may experience fever, soreness, and some swelling and redness in the area where the shot was given. Pain and fever may be treated with acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Check with your doctor to see if you can give either medication, and find out the appropriate dose.

When to Call the Doctor

  • Call if you aren't sure if the vaccine should be postponed or avoided.
  • Call if there are problems after the immunization.

Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date reviewed: February 2014