and Answers on HPV Vaccine
by: Massachusetts Department of Public Health
of Communicable Disease Control
Person: Thomas Bertrand, MPH
Division of STD Prevention
do you know about the new vaccine for human
papillomavirus (HPV)? Maybe you heard about it on the
news, or read about it in the paper. Hopefully, if you’re
the parent of a pre-teen or young adolescent, a family
medical provider has talked with you about whether
your child should receive this preventative vaccine.
But regardless of the age of your child, you may still
have questions about this new immunization.
is HPV? What does this vaccine prevent?
papillomavirus (HPV) is a common virus in humans which
causes many kinds of warts, including genital warts.
Some strains of HPV infect the genitals of both men
and women, and are transmitted through sexual
intercourse. Certain genital HPV strains infect the
cervix and can cause changes in the cervical cells,
causing them to become abnormal. Over time, these
changes put women at risk for cervical cancer.
new vaccine protects against four of approximately
thirty types of HPV that usually cause sexually
transmitted genital infections. Two of the types
(numbers 16 and 18) are responsible for about 70% of
cervical cancer in women. The other two types (6 and
11) cause about 90% of genital warts in women and men.
should get the vaccine?
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
recommend the HPV vaccine for girls 11-12 years old,
although the vaccine is approved by the Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) for girls as young as nine. In
addition, the vaccine is recommended for 13 – 26
year-old females as a "catch-up" to increase
the number of girls and women who will be protected
against HPV infection.
the vaccine is not recommended for boys or men. More
research is being done to examine the effectiveness
and safety of the vaccine in males (and the benefits
for their female partners).
should girls be vaccinated so young?
vaccine is only effective in preventing HPV infection,
and cannot treat infection once it has already
occurred. The best chance of preventing cervical
cancer later in life is to vaccinate girls while they
are still young, before they have a chance to become
exposed to the HPV virus.
my health care provider recommends that my daughter
gets HPV vaccine, does that mean my health care
provider thinks my daughter is sexually active?"
The vaccine is recommended for all young girls,
starting at age eleven. It is important to
remember that the health benefits of the vaccine are
greatest prior to any sexual activity.
the vaccine effective?
Research studies have shown that the vaccine is almost
100% effective in preventing diseases caused by the
four types of HPV covered by the vaccine, including
precancerous changes and genital warts. The vaccine
does not provide protection against other strains of
the vaccine safe?
HPV vaccine was studied very carefully make sure it
would be safe and effective. As part of this research,
the vaccine was tested in over 11,000 girls and women
around the world. These studies showed no serious side
effects, although some girls and women did report
temporary soreness at the site of the injection. The
CDC and the FDA are closely monitoring the safety of
the vaccine now that it is widely available.
is the vaccine administered? How much does it cost,
and is it covered by my insurance?
HPV vaccine is a series of three injections, given
over a period of six months. For the vaccine to be
most effective, girls and women should make sure they
get all three shots. Because the HPV vaccine was just
recently put on the market, parents may want to call
ahead to make sure their health care providers have
the HPV vaccine in stock.
current retail price of the vaccine is around $120 a
dose. Many private insurance companies now include HPV
vaccination as part of their benefits; to be sure, you
may want to call and check if your insurance company
will pay for the cost of the vaccine.
vaccine is also covered by the Vaccines for Children (VFC)
Program, which includes children birth through 18
years of age who are uninsured, on Medicaid, American
Indian or Alaska Native, or seen at a community health
center. Please speak with your health care provider if
you feel you maybe eligible for this program.
my child need to be vaccinated for HPV to attend
school in Massachusetts?
have more questions. Where can I find more information
on the HPV vaccine?
you have questions, or are unsure about whether your
child should be vaccinated, try talking to your family
medical provider. You can also find more information