Who needs the HPV vaccine?

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection. In fact, it’s so common that nearly every sexually active person will develop it at least once in their life. Because HPV spreads so easily and because it often doesn’t have any symptoms, vaccines are an important tool for preventing infection.

These vaccines target HPV strains that carry a higher risk of genital warts and cancers. The vaccines are highly effective but not equally effective for everyone. There are certain guidelines for who should get the vaccine and when.

Who should get the vaccine?

There are a few groups of people who should definitely get the HPV vaccine.

  • Preteens 11 or 12: This is the ideal age range for vaccine recipients for a few reasons. At this age, the vast majority aren’t sexually active and haven’t been exposed to various strains of HPV, which is important because the vaccine is less effective among people who have been exposed to the condition. Children at this age respond better to the vaccine than children over age 12. Also, as they get older, they may be less likely to go in for checkups.
  • Everyone age 26 and younger if they were not fully vaccinated as children.
  • People up to age 45 may also benefit from vaccination: Although this group benefits less as it’s possible that HPV has already been introduced, a personalized risk-benefit discussion is appropriate.

Who should not get the vaccine?

Despite how effective the vaccine can be at preventing certain strains of HPV, there are still some people for whom the vaccine might not be safe or suitable.

  • Women who are pregnant: The vaccine could compromise their health. It’s best to wait until after pregnancy to get the HPV vaccine.
  • People who have a serious illness: According to the Mayo Clinic, the HPV vaccine isn’t recommended for people who are currently moderately to severely ill. It’s best to wait until the illness clears before getting vaccinated.

If any of the risk factors for the vaccine apply to you, you should talk to your provider about the vaccine. It might not pose a problem to your health, but it’s always a good idea to check.

  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “HPV vaccine: Who needs it, how it works.” MayoClinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, Aug 3 2016. Web.
  • “HPV Vaccines: Vaccinating Your Preteen or Teen.” CDC.gov. US Department of Health and Human Services, Jul 21 2016. Web.
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