Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

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Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Overview

What is HPV?

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a very common virus that causes genital, oral, and skin infections. The disease spreads through intimate skin-to-skin contact. People of all genders can get HPV and spread it to others without realizing they have the virus. Most people will get an HPV infection in their late teens and early 20s.

There are many types of HPV. Most of them do not cause infections. However, some types of HPV can cause cancer of the cervix, vagina, vulva, penis, anus, and back of the throat. These types of cancers are preventable with a vaccine against HPV infection. Read more about HPV and how it affects people on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.

What are the symptoms of HPV?

Most HPV cases will go away on their own, but some do not go away and can cause cancers later in life including cancer of the:

  • Cervix, vagina, and vulva
  • Back of the mouth and throat
  • Penis
  • Anus

Other types of HPV can cause genital warts.

Who is at risk?

HPV is spread through intimate skin-to-skin contact. You can get HPV by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has the virus, even if they don’t have signs or symptoms.

Limit the spread of HPV

There are several things you can do to limit the spread of HPV.

  1. Get vaccinated, ideally before you become sexually active
  2. Get screened for cervical cancer.
  3. If you are sexually active: Use condoms

HPV Vaccine

When do people get HPV vaccine?

People age 9-26 should be vaccinated for HPV.

If starting before the 15th birthday, children receive two doses of HPV vaccine.

  • The first dose is recommended at 9 to 10 years of age.
  • The second dose is recommended 6 to 12 months after the first dose.

If starting HPV vaccination after the 15th birthday, people receive three doses of HPV vaccine. The recommended three dose schedule is as follows:

  • The first dose should be given when possible.
  • The second dose is recommended between 1 to 2 months after the first dose.
  • The third dose is recommended 6 months after the first dose.

HPV vaccine is not recommended for:

  • Pregnant people
  • People who have an allergy to yeast
  • Had a life-threatening allergic reaction to any of the ingredients in the vaccine, or an allergic reaction to a previous dose of HPV vaccine

What are the side effects of HPV vaccine?

Most people experience minor or no side effects. The most common side effects of HPV vaccine include:

  • Soreness, redness or swelling where the vaccine was given
  • Fever or headache

This vaccine is continually monitored for safety. The benefits and side effects of this vaccine outweigh the risk of getting HPV, and HPV-attributable cancers.

Why is HPV vaccine important?

Vaccination prevents over 90% of cancers caused by HPV. Since HPV vaccination was first recommended in 2006, infections with HPV types that cause most HPV cancers and genital warts have dropped 88% among teen girls and 81% among young adult women.

Getting vaccinated as soon as you are eligible will increase your likelihood of being vaccinated before your first HPV exposure.

Vaccine Information Statement and Resources

The Vaccine Information Statement (VIS) is given to parents/guardians at the time of vaccination. It explains the benefits and risks of the specific vaccination.

Read the current Vaccine Information Statement: HPV (Human Papillomavirus) Vaccine from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Additional resources for the public

Resources for LGBTQ+ population

Additional resources for health care providers

Childhood Vaccine Program

The Washington State Childhood Vaccination Program provides vaccines to children 18 years of age and younger at no cost. HPV vaccine is included in this program.

View participating health care providers on the Department of Health’s Vaccine Provider Map.