What is HPV and Why It’s Important to Get the Vaccine

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The best way to prevent HPV related cancers

HPV, or human papillomavirus, is a common virus that effects nearly everyone at some point. Nearly 80 million Americans have a current HPV infection and about 14 million Americans will get an HPV infection every year. HPV infection spread through either vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone that has HPV. HPV infections can also cause genital warts.

Most HPV infections go away on their own within 2 years, but sometimes it can last longer and cause cancers. HPV infections cause about 36,000 cases of cancer in the United States every years. HPV infections can cause cancers of the:

  • Cervix
  • Vagina
  • Vulva
  • Penis
  • Anus
  • Back of the throat – including the base of the tongue and tonsils

The good new is that HPV related cancers are preventable with a vaccine! The HPV vaccine is a 2-3 dose series that helps prevent many HPV infections that can cause cancer. 

How effective is the HPV Vaccine?

The HPV vaccine is very effective. The HPV vaccine has greatly reduced the number of HPV infections and cervical precancers in the United States.

  • HPV infections that cause most HPV cancers and genital warts has dropped 86% percent among teen girls.
  • HPV infections that cause most HPV cancers and genital warts has dropped 71% among young adult women.
  • The percentage of cervical precancers caused by HPV types most linked to cervical cancer has dropped 40% among vaccinated women.

For the HPV vaccine to be the most effective, the series should be given to children before ever being exposed to the virus.

Who can get the HPV vaccine?

The CDC recommends that all children should get 2 doses of the HPV vaccine between 11 and 12 years of age. However, children as young as 9 years old can get the vaccine as well.

Children and teens under the age of 15 will get 2 doses between a 6 to 12 month period. For children over the 15 will need 3 doses given over 6 months.

Young adults that haven’t gotten the vaccine can still get it until they are 26 years old. The HPV vaccine is not recommended for anyone older than 26 years due to a greater chance of exposure of the virus. However, some adults aged 27 through 45 years may still get vaccinated after talking to a healthcare provider about their risk for new HPV infections.

What are the side effects of the HPV vaccine?

The HPV vaccine has been monitored for over 12 years in which it continues to be safe. However, like with any vaccine, it could have some side effects. Most side effects from the HPV vaccine are mild. Common side effects include:

  • Pain, redness, or swelling in the arm that the shot was given
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Nausea
  • Headache

The HPV is a common virus that can cause HPV infections that lead to cancer. However, the HPV vaccine is an effective vaccination that can help prevent HPV related cancers. Take control today and find a healthcare provider near you to get you or your child vaccinated for HPV!