The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is a vaccination for cancer prevention.
The HPV vaccine prevents cervical cancer, as well as other cancers including cancer of the oropharynx (back of the throat), anal cancer, penile cancer in men, and vaginal and vulvar cancer in women. In addition to cancer prevention, the HPV vaccine also prevents infection with HPV types that cause genital warts in both women and men.
Physicians can screen for cervical cancer in women. There are no recommended cancer screening tests for the other types of cancers caused by HPV infections. These cancers may not be detected until they have already caused health problems.
Human papillomavirus is a virus; infection from HPV usually comes from sexual contact. Most people will be infected with HPV at some point in their life. Most infections go away on their own and do not lead to serious health problems. However, thousands of people every year have health problems from HPV. Every year in the United States, more than 30 000 women and men are diagnosed as having a cancer caused by HPV infection.
Current HPV Vaccine Recommendations
It is recommended that the HPV routine vaccination be given starting at age 11 or 12 years. The vaccination series can be started as young as age 9 years, and vaccination is recommended through age 26 years for women and through age 21 years for men.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 2 doses of HPV vaccine for people starting the vaccination series before their 15th birthday. The 2 doses should be given 6 to 12 months apart.
For people starting the vaccination series after their 15th birthday, a 3-dose schedule is recommended. The second dose should be given 1 to 2 months after the first dose, and the third dose is given 6 months after the second dose.
Research on the HPV Vaccine
Research studies continue to prove the HPV vaccination works extremely well and decreases the number of HPV infections and precancers. Research studies also show that getting the HPV vaccine does not make teenagers more likely to have sex.
Research has shown that the HPV vaccine is very safe. Like any medication, vaccines can cause adverse events such as soreness, swelling, or redness where the shot was given. There is no evidence to suggest that the HPV vaccine will have an effect on future fertility. However, women who are infected with HPV and develop a precancer or cancer could require treatment that would limit their ability to have children.
This issue of JAMA Pediatrics includes a Viewpoint (http://doi.org/10.1001/jamapediatrics.2018.4283) that argues that HPV vaccination requirements can have positive public health effects. These positive effects include that the cost of giving approximately 8 million doses of HPV vaccine is around $1.6 billion compared with the current estimated cost of $8 billion for preventing and treating HPV-associated disease.
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Published Online: December 28, 2018. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2018.4546
Correction: This article was corrected online February 11, 2019, to fix wording in the Figure and typos in the title and text.
Conflict of Interest Disclosures: None reported.