Learning About the HPV Vaccine

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What is the HPV vaccine?

The HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine protects against HPV. HPV is a common sexually transmitted infection (STI). There are many types of HPV. Some types of the virus can cause genital warts. Other types can cause cervical or oral cancer and some uncommon cancers, such as anal and vaginal cancer.

Who should get the vaccine?

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommends the vaccine for females and males ages 9 to 26. The vaccine may also be given to women ages 27 to 45 who didn't get the vaccine when they were younger. HPV vaccine recommendations may be different in your province or territory. Check with your doctor or local health unit to find the HPV vaccine recommendations in your area.

What else do you need to know?

The best time for a person to get the vaccine is before becoming sexually active. This is because the vaccine works best before there is any chance of infection with HPV. When the vaccine is given at this time, it can prevent almost all infection by the types of HPV the vaccine guards against. If the person has already been infected with the virus, the vaccine does not provide protection against the virus.

Having the HPV vaccine does not change your need for Pap tests. Women who have had the HPV vaccine should follow the same Pap test schedule as women who have not had the vaccine.

If you are a parent of a child who's getting the shot, talk to your child about HPV and the vaccine. It's a chance to teach your child about safer sex and STIs. Having your child get the shot doesn't mean you're giving your child permission to have sex.

The vaccine can have side effects. Common side effects from the vaccine include headache, fever, and redness or swelling at the site of the shot. More serious side effects, such as fainting, are rare.

  • Take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), to relieve common side effects. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Put ice or a cold pack on the sore area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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