Ask the Pharmacist

I have been told my son needs the HPV vaccine. I thought this was only for girls. Does he need it?

Yes, he does. Every year in the United States, HPV causes 32,500 cancers in men and women. HPV vaccination can prevent most of the cancers from ever developing. Almost 13,000 of the cases occur in men. HPV is a very common virus; nearly 80 million people are currently infected in the United States. About 14 million people become infected with HPV each year. HPV is a group of more than 200 related viruses, of which more than 40 are spread through direct sexual contact. Among these, several HPV types cause genital warts, and about a dozen HPV types can cause certain types of cancer. Most people with HPV never develop symptoms or health problems. Nine out of ten HPV infections go away by themselves within two years. But, sometimes, HPV infections last longer and cause certain cancers or other diseases.

The HPV vaccine is recommended for females through age 26 and males through age 21. All kids who are 11 or 12 years old should get two shots of HPV vaccine six to 12 months apart. Adolescents who receive their two shots less than five months apart will require a third dose. In addition, if your child is older than 14 years, three shots will need to be given over six months. Three doses are also recommended for people with certain immunocompromising conditions aged 9 through 26 years.

Like any vaccine, HPV vaccines can cause side effects. The most common are pain, redness, or swelling in the arm where the shot was given. Dizziness, fainting, nausea, and headache may also occur. The benefits of HPV vaccination far outweigh any potential risk of side effects.