Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital Adolescent and Young Adult Specialty Clinic

HPV Vaccine

Prevent cancer with the HPV vaccine.

HPV, or human papillomavirus, is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). In the United States, 79 million people, most in their late teens and early 20s, are infected with HPV. There are many different types of HPV. Some types can cause health problems including genital warts and cancers. However, there are vaccines that can prevent these health problems from happening.

80% of people will get an HPV infection in their lifetime. HPV can be spread by having sex or during intimate skin-to-skin contact with someone who has HPV. HPV can be passed even when an infected person has no signs or symptoms. Unlike with other STIs, condom use cannot always protect you from getting the virus.

The HPV vaccine prevents cancer

The HPV vaccine can prevent cancer and genital warts. Every year, more than 32,000 men and women develop HPV-related cancers. The HPV vaccine can prevent more than 90% of these. The current vaccine used is called Gardasil 9.

Who should get the vaccine?

Everyone! The vaccine will only work if you get vaccinated before you are exposed to the HPV infection. Studies also show it works better if you get it early. The vaccine is approved and recommended for males and females ages 9 to 26. People ages 9-14 receive 2 doses of the vaccine, and people ages 15-26 receive 3 doses of the vaccine.

Is the vaccine safe?

Yes! Many research studies have been done on the vaccine; there have been no serious safety concerns. Some common side effects include: mild pain, redness or swelling at the injection site, fever and headache.

What does HPV cause?

There are multiple types of HPV infections that can cause different health problems. The possibilities include:

  • Nothing: Sometimes, the virus can live in the body without causing symptoms. Symptoms can develop years after you have sex with someone who is infected.
  • Skin warts: These can occur on any part of the body including the genitals or anus. They are caused by some types of HPV.
  • Cancer: In women, HPV can cause cancers of the cervix, vagina and vulva. In men, it can cause penile cancer. In men and women, it can cause cancers of the mouth, throat and anus.

Are there tests for HPV?

There is no routine HPV screening test for children and adolescents. Women may be tested for HPV during Pap smear screening tests, which are usually done after the age of 21.

For more information, talk to your pediatrician about the benefits of the HPV vaccine and how it can help you prevent cancer.

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The information here is not intended to be nor should be used as a substitute for medical evaluation or treatment by a health care professional. This publication is for information purposes only and the reader assumes all associated risks.

Created by Jheel Pandya, M.D., Krishma Kumar, M.D. and Jasmine Reese, M.D., M.P.H.

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