Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common virus that is usually spread through sexual contact. HPV can cause cervical cancer; cancers of the genitals and anus; and cancers of the mouth and throat. HPV also causes genital warts, and individuals can spread the virus even if they have no symptoms and do not know they are infected.
CDC recommends 11- to 12-year-olds get two doses of HPV vaccine to protect against cancers caused by HPV. The second dose should be given 6-12 months after the first dose.
Both males and females up to age 26 years who were not vaccinated at age 11 or 12 years should receive catch-up HPV vaccination. Three doses are recommended for those who initiate the vaccination series at or after age 15 years, and for those who have weakened immune systems (at 0, 1–2, and 6 months).
Since most people who get cancer are older, why not wait and give the vaccine later in life?
Most HPV infections occur among teens, and once you are infected, there is no cure. It can take 15-20 years after the infection occurs for cancer to develop in individuals with normal immune systems and 5-10 years in those with weakened immune systems. The best way to avoid infection is to get vaccinated before the start of any sexual activity. Studies have also shown that the earlier you get vaccinated, the more protective it is.
Updated January 2021
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention