Human papillomaviruses (HPV) are a group of more than 100 viruses.
Certain types of HPV can cause genital warts, which are growths or bumps that appear:
HPV is easily spread during oral, genital, or anal sex with an infected partner.
Many people will be exposed to a form of HPV at some point in their lives. Not all will become infected or develop symptoms.
The HPV vaccine contains virus-like particles that are not infectious. These particles produce antibodies to prevent HPV from infecting cells. The vaccine is given by injection into the muscle.
The vaccine Gardasil protects against four types of HPV strains. It may be used to prevent the following conditions:
Another vaccine called Cervarix protects against 2 types of HPV strains. It is used to prevent cervical cancer and cervical precancer in women.
The vaccine is recommended for girls as a 3-dose series between 11 and 12 years old. Girls should be vaccinated before their first sexual contact for the vaccine to be most effective. Girls and women aged 13-26 years who did not receive the HPV vaccine when they were younger should still receive the vaccine series.
It is recommended that boys receive 3 doses of Gardasil beginning at age 11-12 years. Boys and men aged 13-21 years who did not receive the HPV vaccine when they were younger should still receive the vaccine series.
Men aged 22-26 years may also be vaccinated. Men in this age group should be vaccinated if they have sex with other men, have HIV infection, or have a weak immune system due to other illnesses or medications.
Research suggests that the vaccine does not appear to cause any serious side effects. Like any vaccine, it has the potential to cause serious problems, such as a severe allergic reaction.
Some problems have been associated with the HPV vaccines, like pain, redness, swelling, or itching at the injection site. Other potential side effects include:
Do not get the vaccine if you:
Avoiding physical contact with an infected sexual partner is the only way to completely prevent the spread of a genital HPV infection. Latex condoms may help reduce the spread. However, condoms are not 100% effective because they do not cover the entire genital area.
Other preventive measures include:
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 6 million new cases of sexually transmitted HPV infections are reported each year. Twenty million people in the United States are already infected. HPV vaccines cannot treat infections that already exist. The best way to prevent further spread of the disease is to get the vaccine before becoming infected.
WHERE CAN I GET MORE INFORMATION?
National Cancer Institute
Vaccine and Immunizations
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
2015 Sexually transmitted diseases treatment guidelines. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/std/tg2015/default.htm. Accessed November 12, 2015.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). FDA licensure of quadrivalent human papillomavirus vaccine (HPV4, Gardasil) for use in males and guidance from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2010;59(20):630-632.
Carter JR, Ding Z, Rose BR. HPV infection and cervical disease: a review. Aust N Z J Obstet Gynaecol. 2011;51(2):103-108.
Heffernan ME, Garland SM, Kane MA. Global reduction of cervical cancer with human papillomavirus vaccines: insights from the hepatitis B virus vaccine experience. Sex Health. 2010;7(3):383-390.
HPV vaccine (Cervarix): What you need to know. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/hpv-cervarix.html. Updated June 18, 2013. Accessed November 12, 2015.
HPV vaccine (Gardasil): What you need to know. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/hpv-gardasil.html. Updated June 18, 2013. Accessed November 12, 2015.
Human papillomavirus vaccine. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated September 29, 2015. Accessed November 12, 2015.
Immunization schedules. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/index.html. Updated January 26, 2015. Accessed November 12, 2015.
5/18/2007 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: The FUTURE II Study Group. Quadrivalent vaccine against human papillomavirus to prevent high-grade cervical lesions. N Engl J Med. 2007;356(19):1915-1927.
6/4/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: FDA licensure of bivalent human papillomavirus vaccine (HPV2, Cervarix) for use in females and updated HPV vaccination recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2010;59(20):626-629.
Last reviewed November 2015 by David L. Horn, MD Last Updated: 12/20/2014