The HPV Vaccine: Top 4 Questions and Concerns Answered - Promise
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The HPV Vaccine: Top 4 Questions and Concerns Answered

To vaccinate or not to vaccinate for HPV? That’s the question for some parents who worry about giving this vaccine to their preteens. For some, it’s fear of allergic reactions or side effects. For others, it’s concerns about whether the vaccine actually works or why it needs to be given so young. One of the newer immunizations on the market, the HPV vaccine has proven extremely successful in the past 10 years. HPV infection rates have dropped 65 percent in teens since the vaccination was first introduced in 2006.

HPV (human papillomavirus) is a group of viruses transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, such as vaginal, anal, or oral sex – all of which can be viewed as an example at somewhere like Some strands of HPV cause warts, and others can cause cancer of the tonsils, throat, anus, cervix and genitals in both men and women.

National organizations including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) and National Cancer Institute (NCI) recommend HPV vaccinations for both boys and girls 11 and 12 years old, and older teens who haven’t yet been vaccinated. Even still, many parents have chosen to opt out of the HPV vaccine. If you’re on the fence, here are answers to some common questions and concerns about the HPV vaccine.

  1. What does the HPV vaccine do, exactly?

HPV vaccine protects against cervical cancer and warts. The HPV vaccine is a three shot series given over six months.

  1. My child isn’t sexually active, so she doesn’t need the shot.

This is often parents’ most common concern about the HPV vaccine. But protecting young adults from the disease doesn’t condone sexual activity. The vaccine is most effective before a person becomes sexually active. Given that most people will likely be sexually active at some point in their lives, the HPV vaccination is simply an early preventative measure.

  1. Aren’t there risky side effects?

Most vaccines have possible side effects that are very rare and mostly very mild. Side effects for the HPV vaccine include minor pain or swelling at the injection site, fever, dizziness, nausea and fainting. And serious side effects (such as anaphylactic allergic reactions) from the vaccine are extremely rare. Those who are allergic to yeast or latex, those who are seriously ill, and pregnant women should not receive the HPV vaccine.

  1. How Many Shots Does My Child Need?*

Children under the age of 15 years old now need just two shots to complete the series, but the shots must be given six months apart. Receiving both shots is recommended for the vaccine to work the best. If a child is 15 or older and has not had the vaccine, or if a child has had the second shot less than six months before the first shot, it’s recommended they get three shots to ensure efficacy.

The HPV vaccine has proven over the past 10 years to be effective for teens and young adults. If you have a child 11 years old or older who hasn’t received the HPV series yet, call your child’s primary care physician to ask any additional questions and set up an appointment. Three quick trips to your doctor now could save your child from HPV and other potential diseases further down the road.

*This blog was updated on 10/26/17, to reflect the new recommendation on the number of shots needed in the series.

Learn More

Get information about Nemours duPont Pediatrics primary care locations throughout Delaware and Pennsylvania, as well as adolescent medicine care at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children. And check out these articles from Nemours’ experts at for more information about HPV:

Krishna White, MD, MPH

About Krishna White, MD, MPH


Dr. Krishna White is the Division Chief of Adolescent Medicine at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Del.