U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Get Your Child the HPV Vaccine

The Basics

The Basics: Overview

All pre-teens need to get the HPV vaccine. These shots protect people from serious diseases, like cancer.

What is HPV?

HPV (human papillomavirus) is a very common infection that spreads through sexual activity. About 79 million people in the United States have HPV. That's about 1 out of 4 Americans.

HPV can cause:

  • Cervical cancer
  • Cancer inside the vagina (vaginal cancer) or outside the vagina (vulvar cancer)
  • Cancer of the penis
  • Cancer of the anus (anal cancer)
  • Cancer of the mouth or throat
  • Warts in the genital area

The good news is that the HPV vaccine can prevent many of these health problems. Learn more about HPV.

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The Basics: Recommended Ages

When does my child need to get the HPV vaccine?

Doctors recommend that both girls and boys get the HPV vaccine at age 11 or 12, though your child can get it as early as age 9. The HPV vaccine is given as 3 shots over a 6-month period.

Keep in mind that the HPV vaccine will work better if your child gets it at the recommended age instead of as an older teen. And – like with other shots – kids have the best protection when they get all the shots on schedule.

What if my child is older than age 12?

It’s not too late to protect your child. Teens and young adults through age 26 can still get HPV shots.

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The Basics: Safety and Side Effects

Is the HPV vaccine safe?

Yes. The vaccine is very safe. Is is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. 

Some pre-teens may faint from any shot, so it’s a good idea to have your child sit or lie down while receiving the shot – and for 15 minutes afterwards.

For more information about the HPV vaccine, check out:

What are the possible side effects of the HPV vaccine?

The most common side effects are pain, redness, or swelling near where the shot was given. Other common side effects are a low fever, nausea (upset stomach), headache, and feeling tired.

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Take Action!

Take Action: See a Doctor

Help protect your child’s health with the HPV shots. 

Schedule a wellness visit for your child.

The first HPV shot is usually given during your child’s yearly checkup at age 11 or 12. Remember, it’s always a good idea check with your child’s doctor to make sure your child is getting all the recommended vaccines. Learn about other shots your pre-teen may need.

Make sure your child gets the shots at the recommended times.

Your child needs 3 shots to protect against HPV. She’ll need to get a second shot 1 to 2 months after the first shot. Then she’ll get a third shot 6 months after the first one.

It’s important that your child gets the HPV shots on schedule. To make sure you stay on track, schedule appointments for the second and third shots on the day that your child gets the first one. 

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Take Action: Cost and Insurance

What about cost?

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, the health care reform law passed in 2010, insurance plans must cover recommended shots for kids. This means you may be able to get your childs HPV vaccine at no cost to you.

Check with your insurance provider to find out whats included in your plan. For information about other services for children that are covered under the Affordable Care Act, visit HealthCare.gov.

If you don't have insurance, your child can still get the HPV shots.

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