Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

What is Human Papillomavirus (HPV)?

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a virus almost everyone will be infected with at some point in their lives. In most cases, HPV goes away on its own and people infected with the virus never knew they had it. However, when HPV does not go away, it can cause health problems such as genital warts and cancer. Cancer often takes years to develop after a person is infected with HPV. HPV associated cancers include six types: cervical, vulvar, vaginal, anal, penile and oropharyngeal (throat). HPV vaccination can prevent these cancers from ever developing.

Every year, HPV causes approximately 31,500 cancers in the United States, which includes an estimated 262 Iowans. In fact, HPV-related cancers kill more people every year than polio, measles, tetanus, and chickenpox (varicella) combined before vaccines for these diseases were developed. However, over 80 percent of these cancers can be prevented with the HPV vaccine. Vaccinating adolescents now with HPV vaccine can provide protection throughout their lives.

  • HPV is a common virus that infects teens and adults.
  • HPV vaccine is effective.
  • Your child can get protection from HPV cancers during the same visit they are protected against other serious infections that can cause meningitis and whooping cough.
  • HPV vaccination provides safe, effective, and long-lasting protection.

When should children receive the HPV vaccine?

Both girls and boys should start the HPV vaccination series at age 11-12 years. All 11-12 year olds should get a 2-shot series of HPV vaccine at least 6 months apart. The vaccination series can be started as early as age 9.

All older teens and young adults are recommended to complete the HPV vaccine series if they have not already done so. A three dose series is needed for those with weakened immune systems and those 15 years of age and older.

Additional information regarding HPV vaccine and HPV related cancers can be found at American Cancer Society and CDC web pages. The recommended vaccines for adolescents can be found here.