HPV vaccination protects against some of the most common types of human papillomavirus (HPV). There are more than 40 types of HPV.

Most HPV infections eventually go away without treatment. However, HPV infections can cause a number of health conditions including:

HPV is transmitted through direct skin-to-skin contact during sexual activity. Many people with HPV have no symptoms and are unaware they are infected. As a result, they can unknowingly transmit HPV to sexual partners. Having sex with a condom reduces, but does not eliminate, this risk.

It’s important to know that vaccination does not prevent all cases of cervical cancer. Women who are vaccinated still need to receive regular Pap smears.

In the past, the HPV vaccine Gardasil was recommended only for women and men aged 9 to 26. However, Gardasil 9 is now also approved for men and women aged 27 to 45 who were not previously vaccinated.

Gardasil 9 protects against nine types of HPV. This includes the two most common cancer-causing types. It also includes the two types that cause most cases of genital warts.

Gardasil 9 is given to people between the ages of 9 and 14 in two doses that are separated by 6 to 12 months. People aged 15 years and older receive the vaccine in three doses given within a 6-month period.

Vaccination is usually recommended at age 11 or 12. Ideally, teens should be vaccinated before they become sexually active.

Certain types of people should not get vaccinated for HPV. This includes:

  • those who had a severe reaction to an earlier HPV vaccine dose
  • pregnant women
  • anyone who is currently moderately to severely ill

If you have been sexually active for many years, HPV vaccination may not be helpful. There is a good chance you have already been exposed to the virus. However, vaccination will not cause harm in this circumstance.

The risk of severe reactions to the HPV vaccine is extremely low. However, many people have milder side effects, including:

  • redness or swelling
  • pain
  • fever
  • headache
  • nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • abdominal pain
  • muscle or joint pain
  • fainting

In general, teenagers are more likely to faint after vaccination. Therefore, they should remain sitting or lying down for at least 15 minutes after getting a shot. This reduces the risk of a fall or injury.

The HPV vaccine can be given to both women and men for ages 9 to 45. Talk to your doctor or your child’s pediatrician to see if the HPV vaccine is right for you or your child.