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Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccine


Margot L. Savoy

, MD, MPH, Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University

Last full review/revision Oct 2020| Content last modified Oct 2020
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Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is the most common sexually transmitted disease. HPV can cause skin warts, genital warts, or certain cancers, depending on the type of HPV. Vaccines are available to protect against many of the HPV strains that can cause genital warts and cancer. However, use of the HPV vaccine does not eliminate the need for continued Papanicolaou (Pap) test screening because some cervical cancers are caused by HPV types not included in the vaccine.

Preparations of HPV Vaccine

Three vaccines protect against HPV:

  • A 9-valent vaccine that protects against HPV types 6 and 11 (which cause > 90% of visible genital warts), types 16 and 18 (which cause about 70% of cervical cancers and 90% of anal cancers), and types 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58 (which together cause 10 to 20% of cervical cancers [1])

  • A quadrivalent vaccine (HPV4) that protects against types 6, 11, 16, and 18

  • A bivalent vaccine (HPV2) that protects against types 16 and 18

Only the 9-valent vaccine is now available in the US.

Recombinant DNA technology is used to prepare HPV vaccines from the major capsid (L1) protein of HPV. The L1 proteins self-assemble into noninfectious, nononcogenic virus-like particles (VLPs).

Preparations reference

Indications for HPV Vaccine

The HPV vaccine is a routine childhood vaccination (see Table: Recommended Immunization Schedule for Ages 7–18 Years). The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)–approved indication for the 9-valent vaccine has recently been expanded to include adults age 27 through 45 years for prevention of certain HPV-related cancers and diseases; the current recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices are

  • For both males and females up to age 26 years: HPV vaccine is recommended at age 11 or 12 years (can start at age 9 years) and for previously unvaccinated or not adequately vaccinated patients up through age 26 years.

  • For adults 27 to 45 years: Clinicians should engage in a shared decision-making discussion with patients to determine whether they should be vaccinated.

Alternatively (for consideration outside the US), the following may be used:

  • HPV4 or HPV2 for females

  • HPV4 for males, including those who have sex with men

Contraindications and Precautions of HPV Vaccine

Contraindications for HPV vaccine include

  • A severe allergic reaction (eg, anaphylaxis) after previous dose or to a vaccine component

  • Pregnancy

Although HPV vaccines are not recommended for pregnant women, pregnancy testing is not needed before vaccination. If pregnancy is diagnosed after the vaccination series has been started, no intervention is needed, but the remaining doses of the series should be delayed until pregnancy is completed.

The main precaution with HPV vaccine is

  • Moderate or severe acute illness with or without fever (vaccination is postponed until the illness resolves)

Dose and Administration of HPV Vaccine

The HPV vaccine dose is 0.5 mL IM, given in a 3-dose or 2-dose series depending on age at initial HPV vaccination.

  • Initial dose at age 9 to 14 years: A 2-dose series is given at 0 and 6 to 12 months. Minimum interval between doses is 5 months. If a dose is given too soon (in < 5 months), the dose should be repeated ≥ 12 weeks after the invalid dose and ≥ 5 months after the 1st dose.

  • Initial dose at age ≥ 15 years: A 3-dose series is given at 0, 1 to 2 months, and 6 months. Minimum intervals are 4 weeks between the 1st and 2nd dose, 12 weeks between the 2nd and 3rd dose, and 5 months between the 1st and 3rd dose. If the 2nd or 3rd dose is administered too soon it should be repeated.

Adverse Effects of HPV Vaccine

No serious adverse effects have been reported.

Mild effects include pain, redness, swelling, and tenderness at the injection site.

More Information about HPV Vaccine

The following are some English-language resources that may be useful. Please note that THE MANUAL is not responsible for the content of these resources.

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