HPV Vaccine: Recommendations and Information for Your Patients

On June 8, 2006, the FDA approved Gardasil, the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. HPV is a virus that can cause certain cancers and diseases in both males and females. In the United States, approximately one in nine males has oral infections from the cancer-causing HPV, and males are six times more likely to carry a high-risk strain than females.1

According to the CDC, approximately 79 million Americans in their late teens and early 20s are infected with HPV. In both males and females, the virus can present itself as genital warts. The virus may lead to cervical, vaginal, or vulvar cancers in females, while oral and anal cancers are more prevalent in males.1

HPV is a common virus that can be spread from one person to another person thru anal, vaginal, or oral sex, and can also be spread through other close skin-to-skin touching with those who are sexually active.

What are the age recommendations for the HPV vaccine?

It is recommended that adolescents ages 11–12 be vaccinated to help protect them against the virus before they become sexually active. If they are not vaccinated at the suggested 11–12 age range and are sexually active, females ages 13 through 26 and males ages 13 through 21 should still receive the vaccine. The age for males is extended to 26 for those who are gay or transgender. Subsequently, those who did not receive the three-dose vaccination should follow these age guidelines as well.1

Should the HPV vaccine be given as a two-dose or three-dose series?

  • If the child is vaccinated before their 15th birthday, a two-dose series is recommended. After the initial dose, the second dose should be given six months later.

  • If the child is not vaccinated before their 15th birthday, a three-dose series on a six-month schedule is recommended. After the initial dose, the second dose should be given 1–2 months later, and the third dose should be given six months after the first dose.1

How safe is the HPV vaccine?

The FDA and CDC closely monitor the safety of all vaccines through the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). VAERS reports are regularly reviewed for safety concerns or trends, and for all possible side effects. Based on the information available from the FDA and CDC, Gardasil continues to be safe and effective. The benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks.

Considerations when discussing the HPV vaccine with parents

  • Parents trust what their doctors recommend. When other adolescent vaccines are scheduled, suggest the HPV vaccination as though it were a scheduled vaccination during their scheduled visit.
  • Continue to maintain positive doctor-patient relationships to help with challenging immunization conversations.
  • Always be prepared to answer questions with informative and current medical facts concerning the HPV vaccine.

For additional information and dosing schedules, please view the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ CDC 2018 Recommended Childhood and Adolescent Immunization Schedule on our website.