Doctors recommend the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine to all adults up to 26 years of age and children who are 11 years and older. Adults who are 27 to 45 years of age can get the HPV vaccine based on a discussion with their healthcare provider.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Gardasil 9, an HPV vaccine that works against nine types of HPV, in 2018 for both men and women between 27 and 45 years of age. Previously, the FDA only approved it for people between 9 and 26 years of age, although only recommending it for all children between 11 and 12 years old. However, experts believe that this vaccine is not recommended for anyone older than 26 years.
Some adults aged 27 to 45 years who have not yet been fully vaccinated may decide to get the HPV vaccine after speaking with their doctor about their risk of new HPV infections and the potential benefits of vaccination. HPV vaccination is less effective in this age group because more people have already been exposed to HPV.
What are the recommended doses of the HPV vaccine?
According to current human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine guidelines, the dosage is the same for both genders and consists of two or three doses. The exact number of doses is determined by the person's age at the time of their first dose or their health condition.
- Children aged 9 to 14 years should receive two doses, 6 to 12 months apart. No more doses are needed after that.
- Individuals between 15 and 26 years of age who are receiving their first dose should receive three doses in total. The second dose should be administered one to two months after the first dose, and the third dose should be administered six months after the first dose.
- Healthcare providers of adults aged 27 to 45 years and immunocompromised adults may advise them to take three doses of the HPV vaccine at the above intervals.
- People aged 9 to 26 years who have a condition, such as human immunodeficiency virus, that decreases their immunity should receive three doses at the intervals listed above.
If your vaccination schedule is disrupted for any reason, you do not need to restart the series.
The following people should avoid getting the HPV vaccine:
- Pregnant women.
- People with severe latex allergies should avoid the bivalent HPV vaccine in a prefilled syringe because the needle's cover may contain latex.
- Because two types of HPV vaccines (quadrivalent and 9-valent HPV vaccines) are made in baker’s yeast, people with severe yeast allergies should avoid them.
If you are unsure whether you fall into one of these categories, speak with your doctor about the HPV vaccine and what is best for you.
What are the possible side effects of the HPV vaccine?
Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines may sometimes cause side effects. While many people who receive the HPV vaccine experience no side effects at all, some people report only minor side effects, such as a sore arm from the shot.
The most common HPV vaccine side effects are usually minor and include:
- Pain, redness, or swelling in the arm where the shot was given
- Muscle or joint pain
Vaccination can sometimes result in brief fainting spells and dizziness. Sitting or lying down during vaccination and remaining in that position for about 15 minutes afterward can prevent fainting and injuries caused by falls. People who are extremely allergic to any component of a vaccine should not receive it.
How effective is the HPV vaccine?
The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine has the potential to prevent more than 90 percent of HPV-related cancer. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has currently approved three HPV vaccines:
- 9-valent HPV vaccine (Gardasil 9, 9vHPV)
- Quadrivalent HPV vaccine (Gardasil, 4vHPV)
- Bivalent HPV vaccine (Cervarix, 2vHPV)
All three HPV vaccines protect against HPV types 16 and 18 that are responsible for the majority of HPV cancers. Gardasil-9 (Merck) is the only HPV vaccine currently being distributed in the United States. It is a nine-valent HPV vaccine (9vHPV) that protects against HPV types 6, 11, 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52 and 58. Researchers now have 12 years of data that confirm HPV vaccine provides long-term protection against HPV infection and disease.
- Since the first recommendation for HPV vaccination in 2006, there has been a significant decrease in HPV infections.
- There are fewer cases of genital warts among teenagers and young adults.
- The HPV vaccine has reduced the number of cases of cervical cancer in young women.
- Research shows that over time, HPV vaccination does not lose its ability to protect against new HPV infections.
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