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 people can pass on the virus even if they have no symptoms, and do not know they have been 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 after age 15 years, and for those who have weakened immune systems (such as people with cancer and certain disorders).
View additional information on the CDC recommendations.
Since most people who get cancer are older, why can’t we wait and give the vaccine later in life?
Most HPV infections occur in the teen years, and once you have it, there is no way to cure it. It often takes 15 to 20 years after the infection occurs for the cancer to develop in persons with normal immune systems and only 5 to 10 years in people with weakened immune systems. The best way to avoid the infection is to get vaccinated before the start of any sexual activity. Studies have also shown that the earlier you get the vaccine, the more protective it is.
Information and resources about HPV vaccine safety