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Human Papillomavirus Vaccine

By William D. Surkis, MD, Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine, Jefferson Medical College; Director, Internal Medicine Residency Program, Lankenau Medical Center
Jerome Santoro, MD, Clinical Professor of Medicine, Jefferson Medical College; Chief, Department of Medicine, Lankenau Medical Center

The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine helps protect against cervical cancer, anal cancer, throat cancer, and genital warts, which are caused by the human papillomavirus.

The HPV vaccine contains only certain parts of the virus. The vaccine does not contain any live virus and thus cannot cause HPV infection.


The HPV vaccine is given as an injection into a muscle in three doses: initially (preferably at age 11 to 12 years), then at 2 and 6 months after the first dose.

The vaccine is recommended for

  • All females aged 11 to 26 years

  • All males aged 11 to 21 years

  • All males aged 22 to 26 years if they have sex with men or have HIV infection and have not been previously vaccinated

It can be given to all men aged 22 to 26 years if they have not been previously vaccinated, although it is more effective when given at a younger age.

Side Effects

The injection site sometimes becomes sore, swollen, and red. No serious side effects have been reported.