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Your Child's Immunizations: Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccine

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted disease (STD). It can cause 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 recommended for girls and boys 11 or 12 years old, as well as for older kids who are unvaccinated. If needed, kids can get the vaccine starting at age 9.

The vaccine is given as a series of shots:

  • For children ages 9-14, it is given in two shots over a 6- to 12-month period.
  • For teens and young adults ages 15-26, it is given in three shots over a 6-month period. 

Why the Vaccine Is Recommended

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

The most common side effects are mild fever and tenderness, swelling, and redness at the injection site. Dizziness, fainting, nausea, and vomiting also can follow a 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 have a fever, soreness, and some swelling and redness in the area where the shot was given. For pain and fever, check with your doctor to see if you can give either acetaminophen or ibuprofen, and follow the directions carefully.

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.
Date reviewed: February 2017

Note: All information on KidsHealth® is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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