[Skip to Content]

If you've ever heard someone say that the HPV vaccine can make some people prone to becoming paralyzed, they probably were talking about Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS). GBS is a rare medical condition where the 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 getting the HPV vaccine. Experts have investigated this issue closely, and have not found a connection between GBS and the HPV vaccine. They think that these people probably already had GBS but happened to get the vaccine around the same time.

The CDC and the FDA have studied the HPV vaccine extensively and approved it as safe. They continue to monitor the vaccine to make sure it's not causing serious health problems — as they do with all vaccines.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) can cause different types of cancer (such as cancer of the vagina, cervix, vulvapenis, anus, and throat) as well as genital warts. So doctors recommend it for girls and boys 11–12 years old (though kids as young as 9 also can get it) and for older kids who aren't yet vaccinated. Teens or young adults who didn't start or complete the series of shots can get it up to age 45. (It is recommended up to age 26. After that, a person can decide with their doctor if it’s a good idea for them.)

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.

Medically reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date reviewed: June 2024