Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Vaccines Health Center

Font Size

HPV Vaccine for Adults

Are There Any Adults Who Should Not Receive the HPV Vaccine?

Certain people should not get the HPV vaccine or should wait before getting it:

  • Anyone who has had a life-threatening allergic reaction to a previous dose of the HPV vaccine
  • Anyone who has had a previous life-threatening allergic reaction to an ingredient in the HPV vaccine
  • Pregnant women
  • Anyone with a moderate or severe illness; people who feel mildly ill may still receive the HPV vaccine.

The HPV vaccine is not known to be harmful to pregnant women or their babies. However, until more information is known, pregnant women are advised not to receive the HPV vaccine. Women who are breastfeeding can safely receive the HPV vaccine.

The HPV vaccine's safety and effectiveness have not yet been studied in adults older than age 26. Until that information is available, the HPV vaccine is not recommended for adults older than 26.

What Are the HPV Vaccine Ingredients?

The HPV vaccine contains no viruses and is not made from human papillomavirus. The active ingredients in the HPV vaccine are proteins that are similar to those found in the human papillomavirus. Genetically modified bacteria produce the proteins, which are then purified and mixed into a sterile, water-based solution.

What Are the Risks and Side Effects of the HPV Vaccine?

In clinical trials and in real-world use, the HPV vaccine appears to be very safe. More than 40 million doses of the vaccine -- mostly Gardasil, which was approved in 2006 --  have been given in the U.S. Cervarix was approved in 2009.

From 2006 to 2010, there were about 17,000 reports to the government of HPV vaccine side effects. About 15,500 of these were considered mild or moderate. The most common side effects of the HPV vaccine are minor:

  • About one in 10 people will have a mild fever after the injection.
  • About one person in 30 will get itching at the injection site.
  • About one in 60 people will experience a moderate fever.

These symptoms go away quickly without treatment. Other mild-to-moderate side effects resulting from the HPV vaccine include:

  • Nausea
  • Fainting
  • Headache
  • Arm pain

Severe side effects, or adverse events, are uncommonly reported and have included:

  •  Blood clots
  • Seizures
  • Guillain-Barre syndrome
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Death

Government, academic, and other public health investigators could not identify the HPV vaccine as the cause of any severe adverse event. There were 56 deaths as of September 30, 2010,  none of which could be directly tied to the HPV vaccine. The conclusion of public health investigators was that the HPV vaccine was unlikely to be the cause of these events. Such events occur at a certain rate in any group of tens of millions of people. The vaccination before each adverse event seemed to be a simple coincidence.

Post-licensure safety monitoring from June 2006 through March 2012 continues to show no new HPV vaccine safety concerns.

1|2

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David T. Derrer, MD on March 21, 2013

Today on WebMD

woman receiving vaccine shot
ARTICLE
Syringes and graph illustration
TOOL
 
Ways To Stay Well When Traveling Abroad
SLIDESHOW
Which Vaccines Do Adults Need
Slideshow
 
woman walking
Article
Vaccine Schedule Are Your Childs Shots Up To Date
Article
 
69x75 thumbnail early pregnancy 02
VIDEO
gloved hand holding syringe
Article
 
adult vaccine injection
ARTICLE
woman peeking under sheets
Tool
 
cold season and vitamin C
VIDEO
Adult Meningitis Vaccines What You Should Know
ARTICLE