There's a girl in my class who says that getting the HPV vaccine will make
you prone to becoming paralyzed. Is this true? – Jeyne*
Your classmate was probably talking about Guillain-Barré
syndrome (GBS). GBS is a rare medical condition where a person's immune
system attacks the nerves. People who get GBS can sometimes become paralyzed.
Most of the time it's temporary and the person gets better.
Scientists don't know exactly what causes GBS, but it can be brought on by infections
and occasionally by vaccines. A few people have reported GBS after the HPV vaccine.
Experts have investigated this issue closely, and have not found a connection between
GBS and HPV vaccine. They think that these people probably had GBS anyway and just
happened to get the vaccine around the same time.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) have studied the HPV
vaccine extensively and approved it as safe. The CDC and FDA continue to monitor
the vaccine to make sure it's not causing serious health problems — just like
they do with any vaccine.
Although all vaccines carry a small risk of an allergic reaction, any side effects
with the HPV shot are mostly minor. Someone might notice swelling or pain at
the site of the shot, or feel faint after getting the shot.
Doctors recommend that all guys and girls get the vaccine at the age of 11 or 12
to protect them against the serious problems that HPV can cause (like cancer). Teens
or young adults who didn't start or complete the series of shots can get it later
— for girls, up to age 26, and for guys, up to age 21. Young adults who are
at higher risk of getting infected can get it up to age 26.