HPV: Should My Daughter Get the Vaccine?

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HPV: Should My Daughter Get the Vaccine?

You may want to have a say in this decision, or you may simply want to follow your doctor's recommendation. Either way, this information will help you understand what your choices are so that you can talk to your doctor about them.

HPV: Should My Daughter Get the Vaccine?

Get the facts

Your options

  • Have your daughter get the HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine.
  • Don't have your daughter get the HPV vaccine.

Key points to remember

  • The HPV vaccines Cervarix and Gardasil protect against the two most common types of HPV (human papillomavirus) that cause cervical cancer. Gardasil also protects against the two most common types of HPV that cause genital warts. There are other types of HPV that cause cervical cancer and genital warts, but these four types are some of the most common.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and many other expert groups recommend that girls age 11 or 12 get the HPV vaccine. It can be given to girls starting at age 9. It's also recommended for girls and young women ages 13 to 26 who didn't get the vaccine when they were younger.
  • The vaccine is given in a series of three shots over 6 months. For it to work best, all three shots must be given.
  • The best time for your daughter to get the vaccine is before she becomes 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.
  • The HPV vaccines were tested in thousands of women before being approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and there were no serious side effects. You can't get HPV from the vaccine, and it doesn't contain mercury.
FAQs

How do you get HPV?

HPV stands for human papillomavirus. You can get HPV by having sex with someone who has the virus. Infection with HPV is common, especially among young people. Half of all sexually active people in the United States will get HPV.1 But most people never know they have the virus, because it may not cause any symptoms.

There are more than 100 types of human papillomavirus. But only some types of HPV lead to cervical cancer or genital warts.

  • Cervical cancer happens when HPV causes abnormal cells in the cervix to grow out of control. HPV can stay in your body for a long time. It can take 10 years or more for a woman to get cancer from an HPV infection. Cervical cancer in the United States is not as common as it used to be. But 10,000 women get it each year, and 3,700 die from the disease.2
  • Genital warts (skin growths) may or may not cause symptoms. Even if you treat visible warts, or if the warts go away without treatment, the HPV infection can stay in the body's cells. It's possible to spread genital warts to a sex partner even if you can't see the warts.

What is the HPV vaccine?

The HPV vaccines can help protect girls and women from being infected with some of the most common types of the virus. The HPV vaccines Cervarix and Gardasil protect girls and young women against the two most common types of HPV that cause cervical cancer. Gardasil also protects against the two most common types of HPV that cause genital warts.

The HPV vaccine is a series of three shots given over 6 months. For the vaccine to work best, all three shots must be given. The second shot is given 2 months after the first shot. The last shot is given 4 months after the second shot.

The vaccine doesn't treat an HPV infection. But it may protect a woman against types of the HPV virus other than the one causing her infection.

Health insurance may cover all or part of the cost of the vaccine. But if you don't have health insurance, check with your local health department, clinic, or hospital. Girls and boys 18 or younger can get the HPV vaccine for a low cost or even for free through the Vaccines for Children program.

Males ages 9 to 26 can get three Gardasil shots to reduce the chance of getting genital warts.

When should your daughter get the HPV vaccine?

The CDC and many other expert groups recommend that girls age 11 or 12 get the vaccine. It can be given to girls starting at age 9. It's also recommended for girls and young women ages 13 to 26 who didn't get the vaccine when they were younger.

The best time for your daughter to get the vaccine is before she becomes 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.2

What are the benefits of the HPV vaccine?

The HPV vaccine can help protect your daughter from getting the most common types of the virus. This will help prevent her from getting genital warts and cervical cancer.

The HPV vaccines were tested in thousands of women before being approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and there were no serious side effects. You can't get HPV from the vaccine, and it doesn't contain mercury.

How long does the HPV vaccine last?

The vaccine series protects against the two or four types of HPV for at least 5 years. Studies are under way to see how long the vaccine will last and if a booster shot is needed. A booster shot is another dose of the vaccine that is given after the first series of shots.

What are the risks of the HPV vaccine?

Some people may have mild side effects such as a low-grade fever and soreness in the arm where the shot was given. But neither lasts long. The doctor may have you stay in the office for up to 15 minutes after the shot is given, to watch for any reactions.

How can you talk to your daughter about the HPV vaccine?

Some parents may worry about talking to their young daughter about the HPV vaccine because they think it means they have to have the "sex talk." But you don't have to talk to your daughter about sex if you're not ready. Your daughter may get other vaccines when she is 11 and 12, such as a meningitis shot or a tetanus booster shot. You may want to start the HPV vaccine series when she receives these other shots. You can tell your daughter that these vaccines can help keep her healthy and prevent cancer and other illnesses later in her life.

If you do decide to talk to your daughter about HPV and the vaccine, it doesn't mean you're giving your child permission to have sex. It's a chance to teach your daughter about safe sex and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). This information will be important for her when she is older and making her own choices about sex.

Will your daughter need Pap tests after she gets the HPV vaccine?

Even though the HPV vaccine protects against most cervical cancers, your daughter will need to get regular Pap tests to check for cervical cancer. This is because there are some types of HPV that the vaccine doesn't prevent. Pap tests look for cells that may be, or can lead to, cervical cancer. If these cells are found early and treated, you may prevent cervical cancer.

Compare your options

Compare

What is usually involved?









What are the benefits?









What are the risks and side effects?









Have your daughter get the HPV vaccine Have your daughter get the HPV vaccine
  • Your daughter gets three shots over 6 months.
  • The vaccine can help protect your daughter from getting genital warts and cervical cancer.
  • Possible side effects include a low-grade fever and soreness where the shot was given.
Don't have your daughter get the HPV vaccine Don't have your daughter get the HPV vaccine
  • You may decide to wait until:
    • Your daughter is older before she gets the HPV vaccine.
    • More information is available about how well the vaccine works.
  • You can talk to your daughter about HPV and how she might prevent infection.
  • Your daughter avoids possible side effects of the vaccine.
  • You don't have to take time for your daughter to get the shots.
  • When your daughter becomes sexually active, she will be more likely to get HPV.
  • If your daughter does get HPV, she will have a greater chance of getting genital warts and cervical cancer.

Personal stories

Are you interested in what others decided to do? Many people have faced this decision. These personal stories may help you decide.

Personal stories about the HPV vaccine

These stories are based on information gathered from health professionals and consumers. They may be helpful as you make important health decisions.

I want my daughter to be protected against HPV, but I was worried about how to talk to her about this vaccine. I didn't want to talk to her about sex or STIs, because she seemed too young. Then the nurse at the doctor's office said my daughter needed to have other vaccines and we could start them all at the same time. I told Lupe that all of these shots would help keep her from getting sick both now and when she is older.

Carmen, mom of 10-year-old Lupe

My daughter is away at her first year of college. We talked about safe sex before she left for school and I trust that she will make smart choices. When I told her about the vaccine, she told me she isn't having sex yet and doesn't want to get the vaccine. At this point, all I can do is give her the information and hope she gets the vaccine when she is ready.

Rhonda, mom of 19-year-old Simone

It's just me and Olivia at home. I wasn't sure I could answer all of her questions about sex, so we are taking a sex education class together. Talking to her about a vaccine to prevent an STI in the future is a good way for us to start talking about safe sex.

Brad, dad of 12-year-old Olivia

My daughter is young, and the HPV vaccine is pretty new. I want her to be protected, but I decided to wait until she is a few years older to make this decision.

Janice, mom of 9-year-old Courtney

What matters most to you?

Your personal feelings are just as important as the medical facts. Think about what matters most to you in this decision, and show how you feel about the following statements.

Reasons to have your daughter get the HPV vaccine

Reasons not to have your daughter get the HPV vaccine

From what I've heard about the vaccine, I believe it's safe for my daughter to get it.

I'm concerned about side effects from the vaccine.

More important
Equally important
More important

I want to protect my daughter from getting genital warts and cervical cancer.

I'm not worried about my daughter getting genital warts or cervical cancer.

More important
Equally important
More important

My daughter knows that getting the vaccine doesn't give her permission to have sex.

I'm worried that my daughter may think that it's okay to have sex because she got the vaccine.

More important
Equally important
More important

My daughter doesn't mind getting shots.

My daughter hates getting shots.

More important
Equally important
More important

My other important reasons:

My other important reasons:

More important
Equally important
More important

Where are you leaning now?

Now that you've thought about the facts and your feelings, you may have a general idea of where you stand on this decision. Show which way you are leaning right now.

Having my daughter get the HPV vaccine

NOT having my daughter get the HPV vaccine

Leaning toward
Undecided
Leaning toward

What else do you need to make your decision?

Check the facts

1.

The best time for my daughter to get the HPV vaccine is before she becomes sexually active.

  • TrueThat's right. The best time for your daughter to get the vaccine is before she becomes sexually active. This is because the vaccine works best before there is any chance of infection with HPV.
  • FalseSorry, that's not right. The best time for your daughter to get the vaccine is before she becomes sexually active. This is because the vaccine works best before there is any chance of infection with HPV.
  • I'm not sureIt may help to go back and read "Get the Facts." The best time for your daughter to get the vaccine is before she becomes sexually active.
2.

My daughter will need to get three shots of the HPV vaccine.

  • TrueThat's right. The HPV vaccine is a series of three shots given over 6 months. For it to work best, all three shots must be given.
  • FalseSorry, that's not right. The HPV vaccine is a series of three shots given over 6 months. For it to work best, all three shots must be given.
  • I'm not sureIt may help to go back and read "Get the Facts." The HPV vaccine is a series of three shots given over 6 months. For it to work best, all three shots must be given.
3.

The HPV vaccine will protect my daughter from getting some of the most common types of HPV.

  • TrueThat's right. The vaccines Cervarix and Gardasil protect against the two most common types of HPV that cause cervical cancer. Gardasil also protects against the two most common types of HPV that cause genital warts.
  • FalseSorry, that's not right. The vaccines Cervarix and Gardasil protect against the two most common types of HPV that cause cervical cancer. Gardasil also protects against the two most common types of HPV that cause genital warts.
  • I'm not sureIt may help to go back and read "Get the Facts." The vaccines Cervarix and Gardasil protect against the two most common types of HPV that cause cervical cancer. Gardasil also protects against the two most common types of HPV that cause genital warts.

Decide what's next

1.

Do you understand the options available to you?

2.

Are you clear about which benefits and side effects matter most to you?

3.

Do you have enough support and advice from others to make a choice?

Certainty

1.

How sure do you feel right now about your decision?

Not sure at all
Somewhat sure
Very sure
3.

Use the following space to list questions, concerns, and next steps.

Your Summary

Here's a record of your answers. You can use it to talk with your doctor or loved ones about your decision.

Your decision  

Next steps

Which way you're leaning

How sure you are

Your comments

Your knowledge of the facts  

Key concepts that you understood

Key concepts that may need review

Getting ready to act  

Patient choices

Credits and References

Credits
Credits Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Jeanne Marrazzo, MD, MPH - Infectious Disease

References
Citations
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2010). Human papillomavirus (HPV) Infection section of Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines, 2010. MMWR, 59(RR12): 1–116. Available online: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr5912a1.htm?s_cid=rr5912a1_w.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2011). HPV Vaccine Information For Young Women - Fact Sheet. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Vital Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention (9/15/11). Available online: http://www.cdc.gov/std/hpv/STDFact-HPV-vaccine-young-women.htm.
You may want to have a say in this decision, or you may simply want to follow your doctor's recommendation. Either way, this information will help you understand what your choices are so that you can talk to your doctor about them.

HPV: Should My Daughter Get the Vaccine?

Here's a record of your answers. You can use it to talk with your doctor or loved ones about your decision.
  1. Get the facts
  2. Compare your options
  3. What matters most to you?
  4. Where are you leaning now?
  5. What else do you need to make your decision?

1. Get the facts

Your options

  • Have your daughter get the HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine.
  • Don't have your daughter get the HPV vaccine.

Key points to remember

  • The HPV vaccines Cervarix and Gardasil protect against the two most common types of HPV (human papillomavirus) that cause cervical cancer. Gardasil also protects against the two most common types of HPV that cause genital warts. There are other types of HPV that cause cervical cancer and genital warts, but these four types are some of the most common.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and many other expert groups recommend that girls age 11 or 12 get the HPV vaccine. It can be given to girls starting at age 9. It's also recommended for girls and young women ages 13 to 26 who didn't get the vaccine when they were younger.
  • The vaccine is given in a series of three shots over 6 months. For it to work best, all three shots must be given.
  • The best time for your daughter to get the vaccine is before she becomes 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.
  • The HPV vaccines were tested in thousands of women before being approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and there were no serious side effects. You can't get HPV from the vaccine, and it doesn't contain mercury.
FAQs

How do you get HPV?

HPV stands for human papillomavirus. You can get HPV by having sex with someone who has the virus. Infection with HPV is common, especially among young people. Half of all sexually active people in the United States will get HPV.1 But most people never know they have the virus, because it may not cause any symptoms.

There are more than 100 types of human papillomavirus. But only some types of HPV lead to cervical cancer or genital warts.

  • Cervical cancer happens when HPV causes abnormal cells in the cervix to grow out of control. HPV can stay in your body for a long time. It can take 10 years or more for a woman to get cancer from an HPV infection. Cervical cancer in the United States is not as common as it used to be. But 10,000 women get it each year, and 3,700 die from the disease.2
  • Genital warts (skin growths) may or may not cause symptoms. Even if you treat visible warts, or if the warts go away without treatment, the HPV infection can stay in the body's cells. It's possible to spread genital warts to a sex partner even if you can't see the warts.

What is the HPV vaccine?

The HPV vaccines can help protect girls and women from being infected with some of the most common types of the virus. The HPV vaccines Cervarix and Gardasil protect girls and young women against the two most common types of HPV that cause cervical cancer. Gardasil also protects against the two most common types of HPV that cause genital warts.

The HPV vaccine is a series of three shots given over 6 months. For the vaccine to work best, all three shots must be given. The second shot is given 2 months after the first shot. The last shot is given 4 months after the second shot.

The vaccine doesn't treat an HPV infection. But it may protect a woman against types of the HPV virus other than the one causing her infection.

Health insurance may cover all or part of the cost of the vaccine. But if you don't have health insurance, check with your local health department, clinic, or hospital. Girls and boys 18 or younger can get the HPV vaccine for a low cost or even for free through the Vaccines for Children program.

Males ages 9 to 26 can get three Gardasil shots to reduce the chance of getting genital warts.

When should your daughter get the HPV vaccine?

The CDC and many other expert groups recommend that girls age 11 or 12 get the vaccine. It can be given to girls starting at age 9. It's also recommended for girls and young women ages 13 to 26 who didn't get the vaccine when they were younger.

The best time for your daughter to get the vaccine is before she becomes 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.2

What are the benefits of the HPV vaccine?

The HPV vaccine can help protect your daughter from getting the most common types of the virus. This will help prevent her from getting genital warts and cervical cancer.

The HPV vaccines were tested in thousands of women before being approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and there were no serious side effects. You can't get HPV from the vaccine, and it doesn't contain mercury.

How long does the HPV vaccine last?

The vaccine series protects against the two or four types of HPV for at least 5 years. Studies are under way to see how long the vaccine will last and if a booster shot is needed. A booster shot is another dose of the vaccine that is given after the first series of shots.

What are the risks of the HPV vaccine?

Some people may have mild side effects such as a low-grade fever and soreness in the arm where the shot was given. But neither lasts long. The doctor may have you stay in the office for up to 15 minutes after the shot is given, to watch for any reactions.

How can you talk to your daughter about the HPV vaccine?

Some parents may worry about talking to their young daughter about the HPV vaccine because they think it means they have to have the "sex talk." But you don't have to talk to your daughter about sex if you're not ready. Your daughter may get other vaccines when she is 11 and 12, such as a meningitis shot or a tetanus booster shot. You may want to start the HPV vaccine series when she receives these other shots. You can tell your daughter that these vaccines can help keep her healthy and prevent cancer and other illnesses later in her life.

If you do decide to talk to your daughter about HPV and the vaccine, it doesn't mean you're giving your child permission to have sex. It's a chance to teach your daughter about safe sex and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). This information will be important for her when she is older and making her own choices about sex.

Will your daughter need Pap tests after she gets the HPV vaccine?

Even though the HPV vaccine protects against most cervical cancers, your daughter will need to get regular Pap tests to check for cervical cancer. This is because there are some types of HPV that the vaccine doesn't prevent. Pap tests look for cells that may be, or can lead to, cervical cancer. If these cells are found early and treated, you may prevent cervical cancer.

2. Compare your options

  Have your daughter get the HPV vaccine Don't have your daughter get the HPV vaccine
What is usually involved?
  • Your daughter gets three shots over 6 months.
  • You may decide to wait until:
    • Your daughter is older before she gets the HPV vaccine.
    • More information is available about how well the vaccine works.
  • You can talk to your daughter about HPV and how she might prevent infection.
What are the benefits?
  • The vaccine can help protect your daughter from getting genital warts and cervical cancer.
  • Your daughter avoids possible side effects of the vaccine.
  • You don't have to take time for your daughter to get the shots.
What are the risks and side effects?
  • Possible side effects include a low-grade fever and soreness where the shot was given.
  • When your daughter becomes sexually active, she will be more likely to get HPV.
  • If your daughter does get HPV, she will have a greater chance of getting genital warts and cervical cancer.

Personal stories

Are you interested in what others decided to do? Many people have faced this decision. These personal stories may help you decide.

Personal stories about the HPV vaccine

These stories are based on information gathered from health professionals and consumers. They may be helpful as you make important health decisions.

"I want my daughter to be protected against HPV, but I was worried about how to talk to her about this vaccine. I didn't want to talk to her about sex or STIs, because she seemed too young. Then the nurse at the doctor's office said my daughter needed to have other vaccines and we could start them all at the same time. I told Lupe that all of these shots would help keep her from getting sick both now and when she is older."

— Carmen, mom of 10-year-old Lupe

"My daughter is away at her first year of college. We talked about safe sex before she left for school and I trust that she will make smart choices. When I told her about the vaccine, she told me she isn't having sex yet and doesn't want to get the vaccine. At this point, all I can do is give her the information and hope she gets the vaccine when she is ready."

— Rhonda, mom of 19-year-old Simone

"It's just me and Olivia at home. I wasn't sure I could answer all of her questions about sex, so we are taking a sex education class together. Talking to her about a vaccine to prevent an STI in the future is a good way for us to start talking about safe sex."

— Brad, dad of 12-year-old Olivia

"My daughter is young, and the HPV vaccine is pretty new. I want her to be protected, but I decided to wait until she is a few years older to make this decision."

— Janice, mom of 9-year-old Courtney

3. What matters most to you?

Your personal feelings are just as important as the medical facts. Think about what matters most to you in this decision, and show how you feel about the following statements.

Reasons to have your daughter get the HPV vaccine

Reasons not to have your daughter get the HPV vaccine

From what I've heard about the vaccine, I believe it's safe for my daughter to get it.

I'm concerned about side effects from the vaccine.

More important
Equally important
More important

I want to protect my daughter from getting genital warts and cervical cancer.

I'm not worried about my daughter getting genital warts or cervical cancer.

More important
Equally important
More important

My daughter knows that getting the vaccine doesn't give her permission to have sex.

I'm worried that my daughter may think that it's okay to have sex because she got the vaccine.

More important
Equally important
More important

My daughter doesn't mind getting shots.

My daughter hates getting shots.

More important
Equally important
More important

My other important reasons:

My other important reasons:

More important
Equally important
More important

4. Where are you leaning now?

Now that you've thought about the facts and your feelings, you may have a general idea of where you stand on this decision. Show which way you are leaning right now.

Having my daughter get the HPV vaccine

NOT having my daughter get the HPV vaccine

Leaning toward
Undecided
Leaning toward

5. What else do you need to make your decision?

Check the facts

1. The best time for my daughter to get the HPV vaccine is before she becomes sexually active.

  • True
  • False
  • I'm not sure
That's right. The best time for your daughter to get the vaccine is before she becomes sexually active. This is because the vaccine works best before there is any chance of infection with HPV.

2. My daughter will need to get three shots of the HPV vaccine.

  • True
  • False
  • I'm not sure
That's right. The HPV vaccine is a series of three shots given over 6 months. For it to work best, all three shots must be given.

3. The HPV vaccine will protect my daughter from getting some of the most common types of HPV.

  • True
  • False
  • I'm not sure
That's right. The vaccines Cervarix and Gardasil protect against the two most common types of HPV that cause cervical cancer. Gardasil also protects against the two most common types of HPV that cause genital warts.

Decide what's next

1. Do you understand the options available to you?

2. Are you clear about which benefits and side effects matter most to you?

3. Do you have enough support and advice from others to make a choice?

Certainty

1. How sure do you feel right now about your decision?

Not sure at all
Somewhat sure
Very sure

2. Check what you need to do before you make this decision.

  • I'm ready to take action.
  • I want to discuss the options with others.
  • I want to learn more about my options.

3. Use the following space to list questions, concerns, and next steps.

Credits
By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Jeanne Marrazzo, MD, MPH - Infectious Disease

References
Citations
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2010). Human papillomavirus (HPV) Infection section of Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines, 2010. MMWR, 59(RR12): 1–116. Available online: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr5912a1.htm?s_cid=rr5912a1_w.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2011). HPV Vaccine Information For Young Women - Fact Sheet. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Vital Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention (9/15/11). Available online: http://www.cdc.gov/std/hpv/STDFact-HPV-vaccine-young-women.htm.

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