Frequently Asked Questions Regarding HPV Vaccine (Gardasil 9)
Q: Does HPV really cause cancer?
A: Yes! Every year in the US, 17,600 women and 9,300 men are affected by HPV cancers. Cervical cancer is the most common HPV-associated cancer among women and oropharyngeal cancers (cancers of the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils) are the most common among men. HPV is thought to be responsible for more than 90% of anal and cervical cancers, about 70% of vaginal and vulvar cancers, 70% of oropharyngeal cancers and more than 60% of penile cancers.
Q: How common is HPV (Human Papilloma Virus)?
A: HPV is the most common sexually-transmitted infection in the US. HPV is so common that nearly every person who is sexually active will get at least one type of HPV in their lives. Most people never know that they have been infected and may give HPV to a partner without knowing it. About 79 million Americans are currently infected with HPV and about 14 million people become newly infected each year. All forms of sexual contact (even without intercourse) can transmit the virus.
Q: My child is not even close to engaging in sexual activity, why give it so young?
A: HPV vaccines are only effective if given prior to any exposure to HPV. Preteens should receive both doses long before any type of sexual activity occurs. For 11-14 year olds, it is a 2 dose series, 6 months apart. For teens 15 years and older, it is a 3 dose series given over 6 months. Studies show that preteens produce a higher immune response than do older teens and young women, which is why only 2 doses are required for this younger age group. Remember: Gardasil is NOT a green light for sexual activity; it is a RED light for cancer.
Q: We teach abstinence until marriage in our home. Why should we vaccinate?
A: Unfortunately, even if your child is abstinent until marriage, his/her partner may not have been and this puts your child at risk for HPV infection. We highly recommend all preteens, regardless of religious backgrounds or family morals, to vaccinate.
Q: Do boys need Gardasil too?
A: Absolutely! Gardasil helps prevent infection with the types of HPV that can cause cancers of the throat, penis, and anus. They are also less likely to spread HPV to their future partners. The vaccine also prevents genital warts in both genders.
Q: Isn’t Gardasil new? I usually wait a few years before I give new vaccines to my child.
A: The vaccine was first approved and recommended in 2006 (> 10 years ago)! It was studied for 7 years prior to approval and was tested in more than 30,000 people. Long-term studies continued to monitor vaccine safety in about 190,000 women after the HPV vaccine was licensed with no serious side effects. The CDC and FDA continue to monitor and research all concerns with HPV vaccines in real time to assure its safety.
Q: Why do I have to wait 15 minutes after Gardasil is given?
A: Brief fainting spells are more common in preteens and teens with any medical procedure, including vaccines. Sitting or lying for 15 minutes can help prevent fainting and injuries caused by falls. Common side effects include: redness, pain or swelling at injection site, fever, headache, fatigue, nausea, and muscle/joint pain. Please see the Vaccine Information Sheet (VIS) for more information.