Do I have to get the HPV vaccine?
The HPV vaccine is an important way for women to protect themselves against cervical cancer, which kills about 4,000 women each year in the U.S. Both vaccines protect against the types of HPV that cause most cases of cervical cancer. One of the vaccines can also help protect both men and women against genital warts. However, vaccination doesn’t protect against all HPV types that cause cervical cancers or genital warts. Whether you have to get vaccinated depends on your age and where you live. In certain states, girls and boys within the recommended ages may need to get the HPV vaccine in order to go to school.
When should I get the HPV immunization?
The best time to get the HPV vaccine is before you've started having sexual activity. That's why the CDC recommends that girls get their vaccination at age 11 or 12, although they can get the vaccine as early as age 9. If you're 13 or older and you haven't already been vaccinated, you can still get the vaccine through age 26.
The CDC also recommends that boys age 11 or 12 should also get the HPV vaccine. Boys 13 through 21 who have not yet received the vaccine should also get it. The vaccine can be given to males through age 26, as well. Men who have sex with men, or who have weakened immune systems, should get the vaccine through age 26.
If I'm over age 26, can I still get vaccinated?
The HPV vaccine isn't recommended for people over age 26, because it hasn't been studied well enough in this age group. If enough future studies show that it is safe and effective for people over 26, the FDA may eventually start recommending it for this age group.
How many shots do I need?
You'll get three shots of the HPV vaccine over a 6-month period. You need to take all three doses to be completely protected. You'll get the second shot about 1 to 2 months after the first, and the third shot 6 months after the first. Once you've started with a vaccine brand (Cervarix or Gardasil), stick with it for all three shots.