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Are HPV Vaccines Safe? - OBGYNs on Preventing Cervical Cancer

Are HPV Vaccines Safe?

Past research has confirmed the vaccine's safety. It is created by using a single protein from each type of virus and as a result, it cannot cause HPV infection or cancer. But like all vaccines, side effects are possible. Most are minor. They may include pain and redness at the injection site, fever, dizziness or nausea. Some people have fainted after receiving the shot.

Although blood clots and Guillain-Barré syndrome—a disorder that weakens muscles—have been reported, scientific studies have not found that the vaccine caused these problems.

Do HPV vaccines only prevent cervical cancer?

The vaccine actually protects against several types of cancer. It does so by targeting certain strains of HPV. These infections are spread through sexual contact. HPV can also cause genital warts, but most infections cause no symptoms and go away without treatment.

Some HPV infections may linger for years in your body. These viruses may damage cells, eventually causing cancer. The HPV vaccine prevents those strains responsible for 70% of cervical cancers and more than 90% of genital warts. It may also prevent HPV infections that lead to head and neck cancers.

Is the HPV vaccine only for girls and young women?

Health experts recommend the HPV vaccine for females and males ages 9 to 26. The vaccine is safe in adults over the age of 26, but it is less likely to be covered by insurance in those patients.

This virus, which may be silent, can cause cancer in men as well as women. The reason for vaccinating adolescents early is to establish protection before exposure to this virus, as the vaccine is less effective once a person has been infected.

People who have been diagnosed with an HPV infection can benefit from vaccination since they're unlikely to have already been exposed to all 9 types of HPV virus that the vaccine protects against.

Do HPV Vaccines Work?

The HPV vaccine may not protect against all HPV infections that could promote cancer, but it can substantially lower your child's risk. Research has shown that for girls ages 14 to 19 the vaccine has cut the number of HPV infections in half.

These topics can be uncomfortable to discuss with your children. To help facilitate the discussion, you can schedule an adolescent screening visit with an OBGYN to educate young girls 11-14, as recommended by the ACOG.

Talk to your child’s pediatrician or OBGYN about when your child should receive the HPV vaccine. Find your OBGYN at Digital.Ochsner.org/OBGYN 

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