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Vaccines to Prevent HPV
HPV vaccines are available for females and males to protect against the types of HPV (human papillomavirus) that most commonly cause health problems. The best way a person can be sure to get the most benefit from HPV vaccination is to complete all three doses before beginning sexual activity.
HPV vaccine is important because it can prevent most cases of cervical cancer in females, if it is given before a person is exposed to the virus. Protection from HPV vaccine is expected to be long-lasting. But vaccination is not a substitute for cervical cancer screening. Women should still get regular Pap tests.
Two HPV vaccines have been used in the U.S. and around the world for several years. These vaccine are considered very safe. Learn more about possible side effects of HPV vaccines.
HPV vaccine is given as a three-dose series:
1 to 2 months after Dose 1
6 months after Dose 1
Two vaccines (Cervarix and Gardasil) are available to protect females against the types of HPV that cause most cervical cancers. One of these vaccines (Gardasil) also protects against most genital warts. Gardasil has also been tested and shown to protect against cancers of the vagina, vulva and anus.
Both vaccines are recommended for 11- and 12-year-old girls, and for women 13 through 26 years old who did not get any or all of the three recommended doses when they were younger. These vaccines can also be given to girls beginning at age nine. It is recommended that females get the same vaccine brand for all three doses, whenever possible.
HPV vaccine is not recommended for pregnant women. However, receiving HPV vaccine when pregnant is not a reason to consider terminating the pregnancy. Women who are breast feeding may get the vaccine.
One vaccine (Gardasil) protects males against most genital warts and anal cancers. This vaccine is available for boys and men ages 9-26.
The best way a person can be sure to get the most benefit from HPV vaccination is to complete all three doses before beginning sexual activity.
Learn more about HPV and vaccines to prevent cervical cancer by reading answers to frequently asked questions.
Genital human papillomavirus (also called HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection. There are more than 40 HPV types that can infect the genital areas of males and females. These HPV types can also infect the mouth and throat. Most people who become infected with HPV do not even know they have it. HPV is not the same as herpes or HIV (the virus that causes AIDS). These are all viruses that can be passed on during sex, but they cause different symptoms and health problems.
HPV can cause cervical cancer in women. HPV is also associated with several less common cancers, such as vaginal and vulvar cancers in women and other types of cancer in both men and women. It can also cause genital warts and warts in the throat.
A person can have HPV even if years have passed since he or she had sexual contact with an infected person. Most infected persons do not realize they are infected or that they are passing the virus on to a sex partner. It is also possible to get more than one type of HPV.
Men and women who are sexually active can get HPV. HPV is passed on through genital contact, most often during vaginal and anal sex. HPV may also be passed on during oral sex and genital-to-genital contact. HPV can be passed on between straight and same-sex partners—even when the infected partner has no signs or symptoms.
Very rarely, a pregnant woman with genital HPV can pass HPV to her baby during delivery. In these cases, the child can develop warts in the throat, a condition called Recurrent Respiratory Papillomatosis (RRP).
Learn more about the vaccine recommendations for you.