HPV Vaccine – Why Is it Important?

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States, causing virtually all cases of cervical cancer in women.

There are approximately 79 million Americans infected with HPV and approximately 14 million newly infected each year.

This sexually transmitted infection is so common that almost every person who is sexually-active will get HPV at some time in their life if they have not received the HPV vaccine.

Common Health Problems related to HPV:

Genital Warts (men & women)

Cervical Cancer (women)

Oropharyngeal Cancer (most common in men)

Who Should Get Vaccinated?

All boys and girls ages 11 or 12 years old should get vaccinated.

Catch-up vaccines are recommended for boys and men through age 21 and for girls and women through age 26, if they did not get vaccinated when they were younger.

The vaccine is also recommended for gay and bisexual men (or any man who has sex with a man) through age 26. It is also recommended for men and women with compromised immune systems (including those living with HIV/AIDS) through age 26, if they did not get fully vaccinated when they were younger.

(“CDC”, 2017)

Based on data collected by the CDC:

2010-2014 – 41,000 HPV associated cancers occurred in the U.S. each year (23,700 women & 17,300 men)

2016 – approximately 43% of adolescents were up to date on the vaccine recommendations

(Gostin, 2018)

HPV vaccination coverage in the US remains below the Healthy People 2020 goal of 80% with parental decline being a key contributor.

Healthcare providers report frustration with vaccine-hesitant parents and the importance of providers continuing to advocate, educate and deliver repeated recommendations to convince parents the vaccines benefits far outweigh the risks.

In September 2016, an online survey was conducted of parents with children between the ages of 11 – 17. The results showed that 45% of the parents reported secondary acceptance of the HPV vaccine and an additional 24% intended to have their child vaccinated within the year . The parents reported ongoing education, recommendation and counseling from healthcare providers changed their initial refusal to acceptance.

(Kornides, McRee & Gilkey, 2018)

HPV Myths

Only women can get HPV.

HPV is common among both men and women. About 80% of people will become infected by HPV at some point in their lives. In most cases, HPV goes away on its own. When it remains, it can lead to genital warts and several types of cancer such as: cervical, anal, penile, vaginal, vulvar and oropharyngeal (tonsils and base of tongue).

You must have sexual intercourse to get HPV.

HPV is spread by intimate skin-to-skin contact. While most cases are sexually transmitted, people who haven’t had intercourse can become infected. Using condoms is helpful, but is not completely effective against the virus. Condoms do not cover all of the genital skin.

The HPV vaccine causes teens and preteens to become sexually active.

No research links the HPV vaccine to increases in sexual activity. Children who receive the vaccine do not have sex any earlier than those who haven’t received the vaccine. Also, those who do receive the vaccine do not have a higher number of partners after they become sexually active.

The HPV vaccine may cause medical problems.

The HPV vaccine is a safe drug and doesn’t contribute to any serious health issues. Like any vaccine or medicine, the vaccine may cause mild reactions with the most common being pain or redness iat the vaccine administration site.

(Berkowitz, 2015)


Berkowitz, D. (2015). HPV and cancer: 9 myths busted. Retrieved from https://www.mdanderson.org/publications/focused-on-health/FOH-HPV-myths.h14-1589835.html

Genital HPV infection – CDC fact sheet. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/std/hpv/HPV-FS-July-2017.pdf

Gostin, L. O. (2018). HPV Vaccination: A Public Good and a Health Imperative. Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, 46(2), 511–513. https://doi.org/10.1177/1073110518782958

Kornides, M. L., McRee, A.-L., & Gilkey, M. B. (2018). Parents Who Decline HPV Vaccination: Who Later Accepts and Why? Academic Pediatrics, 18, S37–S43. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.acap.2017.06.008