HPV Vaccination Q&A

Q: What is HPV?

A: HPV stands for human papillomavirus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. The virus can cause warts to develop and can lead to cancers that both men and women are susceptible to–such as cancer of the mouth, throat, anus, cervix, vulva, vagina and penis.

Q: How do people get HPV?

A: HPV is transmitted through close skin-to-skin contact, including various types of sexual activities.

Q: How common do we see HPV?

A: About one out of four people in the United States is currently infected. Three out of four people will get an HPV infection in their lifetime.

Q: What symptoms do people have?

A: Most people with HPV infection have no signs or symptoms.  In most cases, HPV goes away on its own. However, in other instances, symptoms can develop and can take years to present. Symptoms may include warts (small bumps or groups of bumps) or cancer in the back of the throat, tongue, cervix, vulva, vagina, penis or anus.

Q: How can I protect myself or my children from getting HPV?

A: There are vaccines available to prevent HPV infection. Depending on the age group, there are a series of two to three vaccinations that are administered over a period of time.   If doses are administered before the age of 15, there will be a total of 2 vaccines given 6 months apart.  For those ages 15 to 26, there are a  total of 3 vaccines given at 0, 1 and 6 months. All boys and girls are recommended to obtain a full series of the HPV vaccination. It is recommended to start at ages 11-12, but can be given as young as 9 years old.

Q: How effective is HPV vaccine?

A: HPV vaccine can prevent over 90% of cancers caused by HPV which is 30,000 cases of cancer each year.

Q: What is the most common side effect of the HPV vaccine?

A: It is a very safe vaccine. Like any other vaccines, most of the side effects are mild. The most common side effects are redness or swelling at the site it was given.  Additional side effects may include dizziness or fainting, which can be prevented by sitting or lying down when the vaccine is being given and remaining in that position for 15 minutes after administration.

Dr.  Pan San Chan, Family Medicine Physician

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