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Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

A Parent's Guide to Preventing Cancer Through HPV Vaccination


Get your child the HPV vaccine now, and help prevent several types of cancer later.

What if you could protect your child from getting cancer in the future? You can. The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine can prevent cervical cancer and many other cancers in women AND men.1

The HPV vaccine is recommended for routine vaccination at age 11 or 12 years, but can be administered as early as age nine and through age 26 years:

  • Two doses of HPV vaccine are recommended for most persons starting the series before their 15th birthday.
  • Individuals who did not receive their first dose until after their 15th birthday should receive three doses given over six months.1
  • People aged 27 through 45 years old can discuss with their provider the risk of new HPV infections, and if they would benefit from the vaccine.1

Most people will contract HPV in their lifetime.2 You can help make sure your child is not one of them.


1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Cancers Caused by HPV Are Preventable. Published 2019.

2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Infection — STI Treatment Guidelines. Published July 14, 2021.

  • What is Human Papillomavirus (HPV)?

    Human Papillomavirus or HPV is a common family of viruses that causes infection on the skin or mucous membranes of various areas of the body. There are many different types of HPV. Several types of HPV infection affect different areas of the body.

    How common is HPV?

    HPV infections are very common. Nearly everyone will get HPV at some point in their lives.

    More than 42 million Americans are infected with types of HPV that cause disease. About 13 million Americans, including teens, become infected with HPV each year. There are no symptoms, so most people don’t realize they have it.


    Some HPV infections can lead to cancer

    Most HPV infections (9 out of 10) go away by themselves within two years. But sometimes, HPV infections will last longer and can cause some cancers. In fact, every year in the United States, HPV causes about 36,000 cases of cancer in both men and women.


    Can HPV infection be treated?

    There is no treatment or cure for HPV infection. There are only treatments available for the health problems HPV can cause. In most cases, the body fights off the virus naturally. In the cases where the virus cannot be fought off naturally, the body is at risk for serious complications such as cancer.

    To learn about how HPV is spread, cancers that are caused by HPV and what the vaccine protects against, visit the CDC's website.

  • Three HPV vaccines — 9-valent HPV vaccine (Gardasil 9, 9vHPV), quadrivalent HPV vaccine (Gardasil, 4vHPV), and bivalent HPV vaccine (Cervarix, 2vHPV) — have been licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). All three HPV vaccines protect against HPV types 16 and 18 that cause most HPV cancers.

    Since late 2016, only Gardasil-9 (9vHPV) is distributed in the United States. This vaccine protects against nine HPV types (6, 11, 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58).

    How well do these vaccines work?

    HPV vaccination works extremely well. HPV vaccine has the potential to prevent more than 90% of HPV-attributable cancers.

    • Since HPV vaccination was first recommended in 2006, infections with HPV types that cause most HPV cancers and genital warts have dropped 88% among teen girls and 81% among young adult women.
    • Fewer teens and young adults are getting genital warts.
    • HPV vaccination has also reduced the number of cases of precancers of the cervix in young women.
    • The protection provided by HPV vaccines lasts a long time. People who received HPV vaccines were followed for at least about 12 years, and their protection against HPV has remained high, with no evidence of decreasing over time.

    What are the possible side effects?

    Vaccines, like any medicine, can have side effects. Many people who get HPV vaccine have no side effects at all. Some people report having very mild side effects, like a sore arm from the shot.

    The most common side effects of HPV vaccine are usually mild and include:

    • Pain, redness or swelling in the arm where the shot was given
    • Fever
    • Dizziness or fainting (Fainting after any vaccine, including HPV vaccine, is more common among adolescents than others.)
    • Headache or feeling tired
    • Nausea
    • Muscle or joint pain

    To prevent fainting and injuries from fainting, adolescents should be seated or lying down during vaccination and for 15 minutes after getting the shot.

    Very rarely, severe (anaphylactic) allergic reactions might occur after vaccination. People with severe allergies to any component of a vaccine should not receive that vaccine.


  • HPV vaccination is recommended at ages 11–12 years. HPV vaccines can be given starting at age nine years. Vaccines protect your child before they are exposed to an infection. That’s why we give HPV vaccination earlier, rather than later, to protect them long before they are exposed.

    Also, if your child gets the shot now (before they turn 15), they will only need two shots. If you wait until your child is older, they will need three shots.

    All preteens need HPV vaccination, so they are protected from HPV infections that can cause cancer later in life.

    Teens and young adults through age 26 years who didn’t start or finish the HPV vaccine series also need HPV vaccination.


    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that 11- to 12-year-olds receive two doses of HPV vaccine six to 12 months apart.

    • The first dose is routinely recommended at ages 11–12 years old. The vaccination can be started at age nine years.
    • Only two doses are needed if the first dose was given before the 15th birthday.
    • Teens and young adults who start the series later, at ages 15 through 26 years, need three doses of HPV vaccine.
    • Children aged nine through 14 years who have received two doses of HPV vaccine less than five months apart will need a third dose.
    • Three doses are also recommended for people aged nine through 26 years who have weakened immune systems.

    Vaccination may be recommended for persons older than age 26 years.

    • Some adults aged 27 through 45 years who are not already vaccinated may decide to get HPV vaccine after speaking with their doctor about their risk for new HPV infections and the possible benefits of vaccination for them.
    • HPV vaccination in this age range provides less benefit, because more people in this age range have already been exposed to HPV.

    Who should not get HPV vaccine?

    Tell your doctor about any severe allergies your child may have. Some people should not get some HPV vaccines. This includes individuals who:

    • have ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction to any ingredient of an HPV vaccine, or to a previous dose of HPV vaccine;
    • have an allergy to yeast (Gardasil and Gardasil 9); and/or
    • are pregnant.

    HPV vaccines are safe for children who are mildly ill, like those with a low-grade fever of less than 101 degrees, a cold, runny nose, or cough. People with a moderate or severe illness should wait until they are better.


  • How can you get your child the HPV vaccine?

    Help reduce the risk of your child getting cancer later. Get the HPV vaccine now. HPV vaccine may be available at doctor offices, community health clinics, school-based health centers, and health departments. If your doctor does not have the HPV vaccine, ask for a referral.

    You can also contact your state health department to learn more about where to get HPV vaccine in your community.

    Resources for Parents

    Resources for Providers

    To order brochures, flyers and posters for your office or clinic, go to the MDHHS Clearinghouse website and choose "Immunizations" from the menu along the left side. HPV-related items include: