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Get Your Child the HPV Vaccine

The Basics

All pre-teens need to get the HPV vaccine. These shots protect people from serious diseases, like cancer.

What is HPV?
HPV (human papillomavirus) is a very common infection that can spread during sex. It can cause:

  • Cervical cancer
  • Cancer inside the vagina (vaginal cancer) or outside the vagina (vulvar cancer)
  • Cancer of the penis
  • Cancer of the anus (anal cancer)
  • Cancer of the mouth or throat
  • Warts in the genital area

The good news is that the HPV vaccine can prevent many of these health problems. Learn more about HPV.

When does my child need to get the HPV vaccine?

Doctors recommend that both girls and boys get the HPV vaccine at age 11 or 12, though your child can get it as early as age 9. The HPV vaccine is given as 3 shots over a 6-month period.

Keep in mind that the HPV vaccine will work better if your child gets it at the recommended age instead of as an older teen. And – like with other shots – kids have the best protection when they get all the shots on schedule.

What if my child is older than age 12?

It’s not too late to protect your child. Teens and young adults through age 26 can still get HPV shots.

Is the HPV vaccine safe?

Yes. The vaccine is very safe. Some pre-teens may faint from any shot, so it’s a good idea to have your child sit for 15 minutes afterwards.

For more information about the HPV vaccine, check out:

  • HPV Vaccine for Preteens and Teens
  • HPV Vaccine – Questions and Answers

What are the possible side effects of the HPV vaccine?

The most common side effects are pain, redness, or swelling near where the shot was given. Other common side effects are a low fever, nausea (upset stomach), headache, and feeling tired.

Take Action!

Make sure your child’s health is protected with the HPV shots.

Schedule a wellness visit for your child.

The first HPV shot is usually given during your child’s yearly checkup at age 11 or 12. Remember, it’s always a good idea check with your child’s doctor to make sure your child is getting all the recommended vaccines. Learn about other shots your pre-teen may need.

Make sure your child gets the shots at the recommended times.

Your child needs 3 shots to protect against HPV. She’ll need to get a second shot 1 to 2 months after the first shot. Then she’ll get a third shot 6 months after the first one.

It’s important that your child gets the HPV shots on schedule. To make sure you stay on track, schedule appointments for the second and third shots on the day that your child gets the first one.

What about cost?

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, the health care reform law passed in 2010, insurance plans must cover recommended shots for kids. This means you may be able to get your child’s HPV vaccine at no cost to you.

Check with your insurance provider to find out what’s included in your plan. For information about other services for children that are covered under the Affordable Care Act, visit

If you don’t have insurance, your child can still get the HPV shots.

  • Find out if your child qualifies for free shots.
  • Call your state health department to find a free or low-cost vaccination program.
  • Find a health center near you to learn more.