In This Section
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
- What are the symptoms of HPV?
- Should I get tested for HPV?
- How is HPV treated?
- How can I make sure I don’t get or spread HPV?
- Should I get the HPV vaccine?
The best way to avoid getting any STD is not to have sex at all. If you’re having sex, getting the HPV vaccine, using condoms and/or dental dams, and getting regular Pap/HPV tests is the best way to avoid problems that can come from HPV.
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- How to avoid the HPV virus
- How can I avoid I giving someone HPV?
- Abstainer pressure
- Unprotected skin
- How is HPV transmitted?
- Can HPV cause warts and anal cancer?
- What are the symptoms of HPV?
- How do I get tested for HPV?
- How can I be treated for HPV?
- How can I reduce the risk of contracting HPV?
- What if I’m HIV positive?
- If I’m on PrEP, how will HPV affect me?
- Fast facts about HPV
- How do I avoid getting genital warts?
- How can I prevent spreading genital warts?
- How do I talk to my partner about having genital warts?
- Tips to Prevent HPV (Human Papillomavirus)
- What Is HPV?
- Symptoms of HPV
- How to Avoid HPV and Its Complications
- Questions and Answers about HPV and the Vaccine
- How long after receiving the HPV vaccine does it take for the vaccine to work?
- Questions about who should get HPV vaccine
- Who should get the HPV vaccine and how many doses?
- If I have received the first dose of HPV vaccine, is it safe to be intimate? Am I protected from HPV?
- I think I had the HPV vaccine about six years ago, but I am not certain. Should I get the shot? And if I do, but I was vaccinated before, will anything happen?
- I had the HPV vaccine, but have since given birth to a child. Do I need the HPV vaccine again?
- If someone already has HPV, does it help to get the HPV vaccine?
- I have received two doses of the HPV vaccine, but missed my third dose. Do I need to start again?
- I have heard there is a new HPV vaccine that protects against more types of HPV, but my teens have already had the old one. Do they need to get it again?
- I had two doses of the HPV vaccine a while ago. Now, I hear there is a different one that protects against more types of HPV. Should I get that one and if so, do I need to get all three doses of the new one?
- I am in my early 20s and would like to get the HPV vaccine, but I don’t know where to get it. What do you suggest?
- I am concerned that giving the HPV vaccine to young girls will lead them to become sexually active at an earlier age or sexually promiscuous at a later age. Has this been studied?
- I heard that even people who have not received the HPV vaccine have less chance of getting HPV since the vaccine came out. Please explain how this occurred, and why I need to get the HPV vaccine?
- I didn’t get the last dose of the HPV vaccine. Do I need to start over again?
- My daughter is not sexually active. Why should I even consider getting her vaccinated against HPV now?
- I am already sexually active; should I still get the HPV vaccine?
- Why does my son need an HPV vaccine since I heard it prevents cervical cancer?
- Can my 11-year-old get the HPV vaccine at the same time as other vaccines?
- Can I have the vaccine if I’m not a virgin anymore? And will it still be effective?
- I am 33 years old. Can I get the HPV vaccine?
- I finished all doses of the HPV vaccine before I became sexually active, but recently, I had an HPV DNA test that was positive. How can that be, and will the infection go away?
- Questions about HPV vaccine safety
- I don’t want to get the HPV vaccine for my child because I have heard that all of the safety studies were completed by the vaccine manufacturer. Is this true?
- Can the HPV vaccine cause cancer?
- My son received the first dose of HPV vaccine and then two months later he was ill with severe stomach pains, rash and a headache. Could this illness have been caused by the vaccine?
- Does the HPV vaccine cause infertility?
- I heard stories of girls developing different illnesses after getting the HPV vaccine. Are these stories true?
- My daughter is afraid to get the HPV vaccine because one of her friends said it hurts more than other vaccines. What can I tell her?
- What are the reactions to an HPV shot?
- Friends and family often tell me the HPV vaccine is too new and it is difficult to find proper materials to answer this question. What do you tell parents who make this claim?
- Why did my son have to wait 15 minutes after getting the HPV vaccine?
- Questions about how HPV vaccine is made and works
- Q. How long does it take for someone to be protected after getting the HPV vaccine?
- Q. If I got the HPV vaccine, do I need to use protection?
- I have had one dose of the HPV vaccine. Will I be protected if I become sexually active?
- I did not tell the doctor that I am sexually active before getting the HPV vaccine. Will it still work?
- How long does immunity last if you receive all doses of the HPV vaccine?
- If I got all necessary doses of the HPV vaccine, can I still develop genital warts?
- I heard that the cervical cancer vaccine does not prevent all cases of cervical cancer. If this is true, aren’t people getting a false sense of security?
- If my partner and I had the HPV vaccine, do we still need to use condoms?
- Will an HPV booster shot ever be required?
- Can the HPV vaccine help me get rid of genital warts?
- Can the HPV vaccine cause HPV?
- Does the HPV vaccine protect me against any other sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs)?
- Safe Sex
- CERVICAL SCREENING
Want to get tested for HPV?
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How to avoid the HPV virus
As always, the best way to make sure you don’t get an STD like HPV is to avoid any sexual contact with another person — that includes vaginal, oral, and anal sex, and any other genital contact.
But most people have sex at some point in their lives. If you’re sexually active, there are things that you can do to lower your chances of getting or spreading HPV:
Get the HPV vaccine.
Use condoms and/or dental dams every time you have vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Though condoms and dental dams are not as effective against HPV as they are against other STDs like chlamydia and HIV, safer sex can lower your chances of getting HPV.
How can I avoid I giving someone HPV?
The truth is, unless you have a high-risk type of HPV, or have genital warts, you’ll probably never know you had HPV. So the best way to avoid giving it to someone is to never have it to begin with, by getting the HPV vaccine.
Here are some things you can do to help prevent HPV:
Avoid skin-to-skin contact by not having sex.
Use condoms and/or dental dams every time you have vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Though condoms and dental dams are not as effective against HPV as they are against other STDs like chlamydia and HIV, safer sex can lower your chances of getting HPV.
Get the HPV vaccine and encourage your partner to do the same.
By Roxanne Khamsi
Always using a condom during sex can reduce a woman’s risk of acquiring the virus that causes cervical cancer by up to 70%, suggests a new study.
A vaccine against cervical cancer has just been approved in the US, but people will still need to use condoms to protect themselves against the illness, say researchers. This is because the vaccine only protects against some of the strains of human papillomavirus (HPV) that cause cervical cancer.
Less than two weeks ago, the US Food and Drug Administration announced the approval of Gardasil, made by pharmaceutical firm Merck, after tests showed it to be “nearly 100% effective” in protecting against certain high-risk strains of HPV.
There are more than 100 different strains of HPV, and most appear relatively harmless. Gardasil targets four strains of HPV – types 6, 11, 16 and 18 – but there are other strains that can cause cervical cancer.
By the age of about 50, at least 80% of women will have acquired genital HPV infection, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency also estimates that each year about 6.2 million Americans get a new genital HPV infection.
Until now, the effectiveness of condoms against HPV has been unclear. In fact, some studies have suggested that condoms do not offer protection against the virus. But now the most detailed study of condom use and HPV to date finds that they do markedly reduce the risk.
Proponents of sexual abstinence until marriage and others have recently put the FDA under pressure to add a warning to condom labels about a potential lack of protection against HPV transmission.
“We’re hoping the findings of the paper will dissipate this pressure,” says Markus Steiner of Family Health International in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, US, who co-wrote a commentary accompanying the study published in New England Journal of Medicine.
The new study analysed data from 82 sexually inexperienced female university students who kept journals about their daily sexual behaviour. Seventy-four of the women said they had never had sex before the study began; the remaining eight reported their first experience of sex within two weeks before it started. Because the women had had little or no sex before the study they were highly unlikely to have been infected with HPV.
However, all the women were tested for HPV at the start of the experiment and at subsequent four-month intervals for an average of 34 months. These regular checkups provided much-needed data, as HPV infection is sometimes cleared up by the body’s own defences. Previous studies addressing the same question have not followed participants so closely.
Rachel Winer of the University of Washington in Seattle, US, who led the study, notes that the virus appears to take at least 20 days after exposure to become detectable. Tests also found potentially dangerous lesions – caused by HPV – as soon as 51 days after likely infection.
At the end of any given eight-month period, women who reported 100% condom use by their partners were 70% less likely to be diagnosed with HPV than those whose partners used condoms less than 5% of the time. And none of the women whose partners always used condoms developed dangerous cervical lesions during the study.
Exactly how some women acquired HPV if their partners always used condoms remains unknown. In fact, all of those in this particular group also reported no genital contact without a condom.
“There are all kinds of potential explanations that are impossible to pinpoint,” Winer says of this result. She suggests that, for example, HPV may be transmitted through contact with unprotected areas of skin even with perfect condom use, or the women may have misreported genital contact during sex.
Winer stresses that even if the vaccine against cervical cancer becomes widely available, condoms may still offer protection against high-risk HPV strains for which there is no proven vaccine protection.
Journal reference: New England Journal of Medicine (vol 354, p 2645)
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- birth control
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a fairly common sexually transmitted infection among guys who have sex with guys in Australia. HPV is the virus that can cause genital and anal warts.
How is HPV transmitted?
There are many different strains of HPV, however only some strains of HPV cause genital or anal warts and in some cases anal cancer.
While carrying HPV is fairly common, only about 10% of guys who have HPV will ever develop visible warts.
HPV is passed on from skin to skin contact, anal sex and occasionally via oral sex. HPV can be transmitted even when there are no visible warts, however having visible warts makes transmission more likely.
Can HPV cause warts and anal cancer?
While some types of HPV can cause warts, other strains can cause cancer. In men, cancers that are associated with HPV often include cancer of the anus, penis, tongue, throat and tonsils. Men who have receptive anal sex (bottoms) are at highest risk and are about 50 times more likely to develop anal cancer than other men. People who are HIV positive are at even higher risk of anal cancer.
What are the symptoms of HPV?
More often than not, there will be no symptoms associated with HPV. However, guys who carry HPV may develop warts at some point. The first sign of warts are growths or lumps in the genital and/or anal area which can appear up to 3-12 months after first getting HPV. The warts are usually painless and will often disappear on their own without treatment. They can appear on the penis, balls, arse and very rarely on the mouth.
Some strains of HPV can also increase your risk of genital or anal cancer, however these strains are different to the ones that can cause warts.
How do I get tested for HPV?
Warts are generally diagnosed by sight. If you believe you have symptoms of HPV, speak to your doctor or visit your local sexual health centre. A doctor will then be able to confirm whether genital and/or anal warts are present. If you have warts, it means that you have HPV.
How can I be treated for HPV?
There is no cure for the HPV virus itself. However, genital and anal warts can be treated if and when they pop up. Without treatment, warts can stay the same, go away on their own, or get worse. Whether or not you treat them is totally up to you (the warts themselves are completely harmless). However, if left untreated, warts can increase in numbers and become harder to get rid of.
Doctors can prescribe special paints or creams that can remove warts, and sometimes doctors will freeze or burn the warts. However, warts can come back. Sometimes, several treatments are needed before they go away completely.
How can I reduce the risk of contracting HPV?
Just like other STIs, condoms can reduce the risk of HPV transmission. However, they are not completely effective because they do not cover all areas where the virus can be present, such as your balls or arse.
There is a very effective vaccine available called Gardasil, which protects guys from the four major strains of HPV that cause genital warts and anal cancer.
What if I’m HIV positive?
Poz guys are more likely to have HPV than negative guys. If you’re poz and you have HPV, your immune system may be weakened. In this instance, your HPV infection may be more severe, with more frequent flare-ups than guys who are negative. Poz guys are also at an increased risk of anal cancer, so speaking to your doctor about getting vaccinated is a good idea. If you’re living with HIV, Positive Life NSW has developed an additional resource on how HPV and anal cancer may affect you while providing some additional suggestions for how to reduce your risk. You can preview it here.
If I’m on PrEP, how will HPV affect me?
While PrEP is highly effective at preventing HIV transmission, it offers no protection from HPV. Getting vaccinated and using condoms and lube are the best way to reduce your risk of contracting HPV.
Fast facts about HPV
- HPV is the virus that can cause genital warts and anal cancer
- It’s usually passed on via skin to skin contact and anal sex
- Most sexually active guys will contract HPV at some point in their lives
- Condoms only offer some protection
- There is a vaccine available that consists of three doses administered over six months
In This Section
- Genital Warts
- What are the symptoms of genital warts?
- Do I have genital warts?
- How do I get treated for genital warts?
- How can I prevent getting or spreading genital warts?
You get genital warts by having sexual contact with someone who has the virus. Getting the HPV vaccine and using condoms helps to lower your chances of getting or spreading genital warts.
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How do I avoid getting genital warts?
First thing, talk to your doctor about getting the HPV vaccine — most vaccine brands protect you against the types of HPV that cause most cases of genital warts. That’s the best way to avoid any HPV-related problems, including genital warts.
Genital warts are spread from sexual skin-to-skin contact with someone who has it — including vaginal, anal, and oral sex. So the only surefire way to avoid getting genital warts and other STDs is to not have any contact with another person’s mouth or genitals.
But most people have sex at some point in their lives, so knowing how to have safer sex is important. Using protection like condoms and dental dams when you have sex really helps to lower your risk of getting any STD.
You can also avoid sex with someone if you see warts on their genitals or anus, because that’s when they spread the most easily. But remember, it is possible to get them or spread them when there are no visible warts, so it’s important to use condoms and dental dams even if everything looks totally OK.
And while there’s no genital warts test, getting tested for STDs at routine checkups with a doctor or nurse is a part of keeping yourself healthy.
How can I prevent spreading genital warts?
If you find out that you have genital warts, try not to freak out. There are a few ways that you can stop it from spreading to your partners.
Encourage your partner to talk with a doctor or nurse about the HPV vaccine. Most brands can protect against some types of the virus that cause most cases of genital warts.
Always use condoms and dental dams during oral, anal, and vaginal sex.
Don’t have sex when you have visible warts, even with a condom. There may be warts on places the condom doesn’t cover.
Stop smoking. If you smoke, you may have a bigger chance of getting warts than people who don’t smoke, and warts are more likely to come back if you smoke.
Always tell your sexual partners that you have genital warts before you have sex, so you can work together to prevent them from spreading.
How do I talk to my partner about having genital warts?
Telling someone you have an STD can be hard, but genital warts are common and they don’t lead to serious health problems. So try not to be too embarrassed or stressed out about it.
There’s no one way to talk to a partner about having an STD, but here are some basic tips that may help:
Keep calm and carry on. Lots of people have genital warts, and plenty of them are in relationships. For most couples, having genital warts isn’t a huge deal. Try to go into the conversation with a calm, positive attitude. Having genital warts is simply a health issue — it doesn’t say anything about you as a person.
Make it a two-way conversation. Remember that STDs are super common, so who knows? Your partner might have genital warts, too. So start by asking if they’ve ever been tested or if they’ve had an STD before.
Know your facts. There’s a lot of misinformation about STDs out there, so read up on the facts and be prepared to set the record straight. Let your partner know there are ways to avoid passing genital warts during sex. And you can also remind them that genital warts aren’t dangerous and don’t cause cancer or any other serious health problems.
Think about the timing. Pick a time when you won’t be distracted or interrupted, and find a place to talk that’s private and relaxed. If you’re nervous, you can talk it through with a friend first, or practice by talking to yourself. It sounds silly, but saying the words out loud can help you know what you want to say and feel more confident when you talk to your partner.
Safety first. If you’re afraid that your partner might hurt you, telling them in person might not be safe. You’re probably better off with an e-mail, text, or phone call — or in extreme cases, not telling them at all. Call 1-800-799-SAFE or check out the National Domestic Violence Hotline for help if you think you might be in danger.
So … when’s a good time to tell your partner about those genital warts? You might not need to bring it up the very first time you hang out, but you should let them know before you have sex. So when the relationship starts heading down that path and you feel like you can trust the person, that’s probably a good time.
It’s normal to be worried about how your partner’s going to react. And there’s no way around it: Some people might freak out. If that happens, try to stay calm and talk about all the ways there are to prevent spreading genital warts. You might just need to give your partner a little time and space to process the news, which is normal. And lots of people know that genital warts are common and not a big deal.
Try not to play the blame game when you talk to your partner. If one of you gets genital warts for the first time during the relationship, it doesn’t automatically mean that somebody cheated, or that one of you got them from the other. Warts can take weeks, months, or even longer to show up after you get the infection. So it’s usually really hard to tell when and where someone got them. The most important thing is that you both get checked out. If it turns out only one of you has genital warts, talk about how you can prevent passing them on. Tell your past partners too, so they can get checked out.
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Tips to Prevent HPV (Human Papillomavirus)
HPV is the most commonly sexually transmitted infection. Seventy-nine million Americans—mostly young adults in their late teens and early twenties — will become infected with HPV, or human papillomavirus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HPV is so common that almost everyone who is sexually active will get HPV at some point if they don’t get the HPV vaccine.
What Is HPV?
HPV is a group of related viruses that can cause warts (on the palms of hands, soles of feet or genitals) and others can cause cancers. Anyone who is sexually active can get HPV, which is spread through vaginal, anal and oral sex with an infected person. It also can be spread through skin-to-skin contact such as shaking hands after poor hygiene or contact with an infected area.
Symptoms may appear years after you’ve contracted the virus. Most people don’t develop symptoms and may never know they’ve had the infection—and that makes the virus easier to spread.
Symptoms of HPV
Your doctor can only check for certain types of HPV (most commonly on a Pap smear). There is no blood test or other tests for genital warts other than a physical exam by your physician. Genital warts usually go away on their own within 12 months. But for some people, they do not go away and even can lead to cancer.
The first symptoms of genital warts may be a bump or small bumps in the genital or anus area. They may go away on their own or increase in number. Your doctor has several ways to remove warts, including prescription medicines, cryotherapy, cautery and surgically removing them.
Certain types of HPV can cause cervical cancer as well as cancer of the vulva, vagina, penis, anus and the base of the tongue, tonsils and throat. Women may first find out they have HPV after getting abnormal results from a Pap test. Others may not find out until cancer symptoms develop.
How to Avoid HPV and Its Complications
Even though HPV occurs frequently, you can avoid—or at least reduce your risk —of contracting it by:
- Getting the HPV vaccine.
- Abstaining from sex. For most people, this is not a realistic option for a lifetime and does not completely protect you, but it does drastically reduce your risk of contracting the infection.
- Using latex condoms correctly every time you have sex reduces your chances of getting HPV. However, HPV can affect areas not covered by a condom, so this protection isn’t foolproof.
- Being in a monogamous relationship, which reduces your exposure to the disease.
- Being screened for cervical cancer if you are a woman between the ages of 21 and 65.
- Not smoking. Your immune system’s ability to fight off the HPV infection decreases when you smoke while your risk for disease and cancer increases dramatically.
The HPV vaccine can protect against the virus and the diseases it causes. The CDC recommends vaccines for:
- Boys and girls 11 or 12 years old
- Boys and men through age 21 and girls and women through age 26, if they haven’t already received the vaccine
- Gay or bisexual men through age 26
- Men and women with compromised immune systems through age 26, if they did not get vaccinated earlier
HPV complications can range from mildly annoying to life-threatening. By protecting yourself through vaccinations and lifestyle changes, you can reduce your likelihood of contracting and spreading this disease.
Questions and Answers about HPV and the Vaccine
How long after receiving the HPV vaccine does it take for the vaccine to work?
The immune system takes one to two weeks to generate immunity to vaccines or infections. In the case of HPV vaccine, the first dose (and the second one if the person is on the three-dose series), generates a primary immune response, so people will have some immunity, but protection can vary from one person to another. The last dose (given at least six months after the first dose) is important because it enhances the memory immune response. A person will have the greatest protection beginning about one to two weeks after receiving their last dose of the vaccine.
Questions about who should get HPV vaccine
Who should get the HPV vaccine and how many doses?
The HPV vaccine is recommended for adolescents between 9 and 12 years of age, and all teenagers and adults between 13 and 26 years of age who did not get the vaccine when they were younger.
Two doses of the HPV vaccine are recommended for those younger than 15 years of age, with the second dose administered six months after the first one. Those 15 years and older should receive three doses of HPV vaccine with the second dose given one to two months after the first, and the third dose given six to 12 months after the first.
Learn more about why this is the recommended age group by watching the short video below.
People who have received one dose of the HPV vaccine may have some protection, but the additional dose or doses (depending upon age) offer additional protection. Further, if you or your partner were already infected with a type of HPV, the vaccine will not prevent transmission of that type.
You should talk with your healthcare provider to see if they know whether you were vaccinated and if so, what type of HPV vaccine you received and how many doses were given. However, if that is not an option and you are uncertain, you can still get the vaccine. Extra doses are not likely to have negative effects.
I had the HPV vaccine, but have since given birth to a child. Do I need the HPV vaccine again?
No, people who have been vaccinated against HPV do not need to be revaccinated after giving birth.
If someone already has HPV, does it help to get the HPV vaccine?
Yes. Typically, people with HPV have not been infected with all of the strains contained in the vaccine, so the vaccine could protect them from strains to which they have not been exposed previously. However, the vaccine will not help treat or protect against types of HPV to which the person has already been exposed.
I have received two doses of the HPV vaccine, but missed my third dose. Do I need to start again?
For those 15 years of age and younger, the HPV vaccine is now given in two doses. So, depending on your age, you may not need a third dose:
- If you are under 15 years old and your first two doses were at least six months apart, you do not need a third dose.
- If you are 15 years or older, you still need the third dose; it should be separated from the first dose by six to 12 months.
The HPV vaccine protects against nine types of HPV (Gardasil 9®). The CDC does not recommend giving this vaccine to people who already had the earlier HPV vaccines (Cervarix® or Gardasil®-4). However, because the vaccine protects against additional types of the virus, individuals may still reasonably get the vaccine. In this case, the person should speak with his/her healthcare provider regarding the relative benefits associated with this choice.
The newer version, Gardasil 9®, is the only version currently available, so you can be protected against more types of the virus by getting the vaccine. The 9-valent vaccine can be used in place of either of the previous two HPV vaccines (Gardasil® and Cervarix®) to complete a vaccination series, so, you do not need to start over again. You would just get the last dose with the current vaccine option. Cervarix is no longer available in the United States.
If you are younger than 15 years old and your first two doses were separated by at least six months, you do not need any additional doses.
You should start by checking with your primary healthcare provider. If you cannot get the vaccine from their office, you should also check with your gynecologist, the local health department or a local pharmacy. The manufacturer, Merck, also has an adult vaccine locator on their website that might be of help.
Yes. A few studies have looked at this and none have found that receiving the HPV vaccine causes girls to become promiscuous or engage in sexual activity at an earlier age. One such study by Robert Bednarczyk and colleagues, published October 2012 in Pediatrics, compared the medical records of 493 girls who received the HPV vaccine and 905 who didn’t. The study found no differences between the two groups in regards to incidence of pregnancies, tests for or diagnosis of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and contraceptive counseling. Based on these results, the authors of the study reported that the HPV vaccine “was not associated with increased sexual activity-related outcomes.”
The HPV vaccine was introduced in 2006, and according to an article published in the July 2012 issue of Pediatrics, use of the HPV vaccine has resulted not only in lower rates of infection among those who were vaccinated, but also, to some degree, in those who have not been vaccinated. This phenomenon is commonly known as herd immunity.
You should still consider getting the vaccine for two reasons. First, additional studies are needed to reproduce these findings. Second, while herd immunity might lessen your chance of coming into contact with the virus, the vaccine will significantly decrease your chance of infection if you do come into contact with it.
I didn’t get the last dose of the HPV vaccine. Do I need to start over again?
No. You can just resume where you left off.
The HPV vaccine is recommended before the start of sexual activity for two reasons:
- Young people tend to get infected more frequently; in fact, about half of all new infections are diagnosed in girls and young women between 15 and 24 years of age.
- It takes at least six months to complete the series, so even though your daughter may not be active now, or even in six months, it is better to have the series completed sooner rather than later.
I am already sexually active; should I still get the HPV vaccine?
Yes. The reason to get the HPV vaccine even if you are already sexually active is that you will not have been exposed to all of the types of HPV that are contained in the vaccine.
Why does my son need an HPV vaccine since I heard it prevents cervical cancer?
Although HPV is a known cause of cervical cancer, the virus can also cause other cancers of the reproductive tract, anal cancer, penile cancer, genital warts, and on occasion, cancers of the head and neck. In fact, about 1 of every 3 cases of HPV-related cancers are in boys or men. Because vaccinating boys will also decrease the spread of the virus, they will not only protect themselves, but also their sexual partners.
Can my 11-year-old get the HPV vaccine at the same time as other vaccines?
Yes. The HPV vaccine can be given at the same time as other vaccines recommended at this age, including the vaccine for tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap) and the one for meningococcus. If it is influenza vaccine season, this vaccine can be given as well.
Can I have the vaccine if I’m not a virgin anymore? And will it still be effective?
Yes, you can still get the HPV vaccine even if you have had sexual intercourse. While you may have been exposed to one or more types of HPV, it is unlikely that you would have been exposed to all of the types that the vaccine protects against, so it may still be of benefit for you.
I am 33 years old. Can I get the HPV vaccine?
In October 2018, the vaccine became licensed for people up to 45 years of age, so inquire with your provider.
Because the HPV vaccine does not protect against all types of HPV, it is possible that a fully vaccinated person could be infected with a type of HPV that is not contained in the vaccine. Most people will clear any type of HPV infection— but it may take months to do so. In a few people, however, HPV infection will persist and possibly become cancerous. We have no way of knowing who will be affected over the long term. That said, the vaccine protects against the most common types that cause cancer or genital warts.
Questions about HPV vaccine safety
Vaccine safety is studied by many, many groups not just those who manufacture vaccines. The FDA reviews all data associated with studies completed by vaccine manufacturers as well as visiting manufacturing sites and continuing to monitor the vaccine as long as it is being made. Additionally, the CDC has systems in place to monitor vaccine safety including the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) which allows anyone to report side effects, allowing CDC scientists to watch for trends. Two additional systems provide a controlled way to test whether the trends are causally associated and to study vaccine safety. The first, the Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD), is a collaboration with eight large healthcare organizations from various parts of the United States. Health records are monitored for vaccine receipt and illnesses to study vaccine safety. The second, the Clinical Immunization Safety Assessment Project (CISA), is a national group of vaccine experts from the CDC, seven medical research centers, and other experts who conduct research around specific vaccine safety concerns, provide consultations for individual healthcare providers on specific patients, and review adverse event data. Vaccine manufacturers do not have a role in these studies.
Additionally, the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), previously called the Institute of Medicine (IOM), periodically conducts comprehensive reviews of the literature to monitor vaccine safety. The NAM completed a review related to adverse effects of vaccines, which included HPV, in 2012. Their findings are available online.
More than 200 million doses of HPV vaccine have been given safely throughout the world. More than 100 million of these have been given in the U.S. What we know from all of these data is that the vaccine is safe and it is working to decrease transmission of HPV, genital warts, cervical changes that cause cancer, and juvenile-onset recurrent respiratory papillomatosis.
Can the HPV vaccine cause cancer?
No. Because the HPV vaccine is made using only a single protein from each type of the virus, it can’t cause HPV infection, and, therefore, it can’t cause cervical cancer or other cancers.
It is not likely that your son’s symptoms were the result of his HPV vaccination for a couple of reasons. First, the length of time between the dose and the appearance of symptoms is not what one would expect if the vaccine was the cause. Second, of the three symptoms you mentioned, the only one that was consistently reported in HPV vaccine recipients was headache, and that was typically reported within 15 days of the first dose.
Does the HPV vaccine cause infertility?
No. HPV infections do not cause infertility, except indirectly in cases when they progress to cervical cancer, so it is not biologically plausible that the HPV vaccine would lead to infertility. To the contrary, since the HPV vaccine decreases the number of cases of cervical cancer, it may indirectly decrease the number of women unable to have a baby.
The known side effects of the HPV vaccine include pain, redness or swelling at the injection site. In addition, because teens tend to faint more easily, fainting has been associated with vaccines given to this age group. Because of this, vaccine recipients should remain seated or lying down at the doctor’s office for about 15 minutes after getting the vaccine.
Reports of blood clots, strokes, heart attacks, chronic fatigue syndrome, infertility or premature ovarian failure, and even death have occurred after receipt of this vaccine; however, reviews of individual cases as well as controlled studies looking at groups of people who did and did not get the vaccine have shown that none of these problems were caused by the HPV vaccine.
The HPV vaccine contains higher concentrations of salt than other vaccines, so they may hurt a bit more when they are administered. However, you can suggest one of the following to make your daughter more comfortable while getting the shot:
- Relax the muscle and look away while the shot is given. Take a few short, deep breaths and then a few longer breaths during the vaccine administration.
- Rub an alcohol pad on the opposite wrist right before the vaccine is given and then have her blow on it while the vaccine is administered.
- Use a distraction — friends, music, books, cell phones, or electronic games may work to distract your daughter during the vaccine administration.
- Finally, remind your daughter that the pain of the vaccine is minor compared to the pain associated with the disease.
What are the reactions to an HPV shot?
The HPV vaccine may cause redness, swelling and tenderness at the site of the injection. Some people may faint when they get the vaccine, so people are advised to stay at the doctor’s office for 15-20 minutes after getting the vaccine.
Because vaccines are given to healthy children, they are held to a strict standard of safety. What that means for us as consumers is that before a vaccine is ever recommended for the general population it has been tested in thousands and thousands of children through carefully controlled scientific studies. So while they are “new” recommendations, the vaccines have often been studied for years.
For example, HPV vaccines were tested in more than 30,000 women whose health was monitored for about seven years before the vaccine was approved and recommended. Long-term studies continued to monitor vaccine safety in about 190,000 women after the HPV vaccine was licensed. Similarly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has networks that continue to monitor all vaccines in real time, so that any safety concern would come to attention quickly. At this point, millions of HPV vaccines have been given.
Why did my son have to wait 15 minutes after getting the HPV vaccine?
Some teens are more prone to fainting after getting the vaccine; therefore, all teens are recommended to wait at the doctor’s office for 15 minutes to be sure they are okay.
Questions about how HPV vaccine is made and works
Q. How long does it take for someone to be protected after getting the HPV vaccine?
A. It takes about two weeks after the first dose of vaccine for the immune system to generate an immune response. The additional doses make that response stronger, particularly the last one which fortifies the memory response.
Q. If I got the HPV vaccine, do I need to use protection?
A. It is important to understand that the HPV vaccine does not protect against other STDs, such as syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and herpes, nor does it protect against types of HPV to which one was already exposed. For these reasons, using protection is still prudent to consider.
I have had one dose of the HPV vaccine. Will I be protected if I become sexually active?
While you may have some protection after receiving the first dose of HPV vaccine, your best level of protection will occur after you receive all recommended doses.
The HPV vaccine will not protect you against types of HPV to which you may have already been exposed; however, it will protect you against types to which you were not previously exposed. Since the vaccine protects against nine types of HPV, it is likely that you can still benefit from receiving the vaccine. For this reason, knowing your sexual activity status is not a requirement for deciding whether or not you should get the HPV vaccine.
How long does immunity last if you receive all doses of the HPV vaccine?
We do not know for sure whether immunity will last a lifetime; however, the data are reassuring. First, the vaccine has been studied for more than 10 years at this point, and immunity doesn’t appear to wane. Second, the immune responses generated by the vaccine are stronger than those invoked after natural infection. Finally, the hepatitis B vaccine, which is made using a technology similar to the HPV vaccine, induces a memory response that lasts at least 30 years.
If I got all necessary doses of the HPV vaccine, can I still develop genital warts?
Yes, it is possible. Although the HPV vaccine protects against the two strains of HPV that most commonly cause genital warts, it will still only prevent about 9 of every 10 cases of genital warts. Therefore, someone could still get genital warts if they are infected with a type of HPV that causes genital warts but was not in the vaccine.
The strains of HPV included in the vaccine will prevent about 9 of 10 cases of cervical cancer. However, because a possibility of getting cervical cancer from one of the types of HPV not contained in the vaccine still exists, women should continue to get regular Pap tests. In addition, the vaccine does not protect against other sexually-transmitted diseases, so practicing safe sex is also important.
If my partner and I had the HPV vaccine, do we still need to use condoms?
Yes. The HPV vaccine does not prevent all types of HPV or other types of sexually-transmitted diseases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a helpful fact sheet about the use of condoms.
Will an HPV booster shot ever be required?
HPV booster doses are not expected to be necessary; however, public health officials will continue to monitor rates of disease to watch for waning immunity.
Can the HPV vaccine help me get rid of genital warts?
If you already have genital warts, the HPV vaccine will not treat them. However, the vaccine may still protect you against other types of HPV to which you were not previously exposed. Consult your doctor about medicines and procedures that may be used to treat genital warts.
Can the HPV vaccine cause HPV?
No. The HPV vaccine is made using a protein from the surface of the HPV virus. Although the protein folds itself to look like a viral particle in a microscope, it does not contain any genetic material, so it cannot replicate and cause an infection. Because the proteins look like a viral particle, scientists refer to them as “virus-like particles.”
Does the HPV vaccine protect me against any other sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs)?
No. The vaccine does not protect against any other STD. In fact, since there are more than 100 types of HPV, it does not even protect against all types of HPV.
Because HPV is a common virus and is so easily passed on, it is quite difficult to prevent yourself from being infected.
Up to 90% of males and females will be infected with at least one genital type of HPV at some time in their lives.1 But remember that most people clear HPV infection from their body without any symptoms or health problems.
If used correctly, condoms can help reduce the risk of genital HPV, and also provide protection against other sexually transmitted diseases. However, because HPV is transmitted through genital skin contact (not just sexual intercourse) condoms don’t provide 100% protection against HPV.
For females, your risk of developing cervical cancer can be reduced with cervical screening. Talk to your doctor for more information.
There are vaccines available for certain types of HPV. Vaccination does not protect against all HPV types that could cause cervical cancer; therefore, it is important women continue with cervical screening. Talk to your healthcare professional for more information.