10 Myths Debunked About The HPV Vaccine
The science behind human papillomavirus immunization
No topic triggers as much controversy on our social media sites or Checkup Newsroom as vaccines. When it comes to the HPV vaccine, people are especially passionate.
You may have seen the comments on Cook Children’s Facebook page after we announced an upcoming Facebook Live event. “Take The Shot. Prevent Cancer. A Conversation About HPV” will feature experts from Cook Children’s and Baylor Scott & White at 1:30 p.m. CST on Thursday, April 12.
We know there is a small but aggressively vocal group of people who have made their mind up on this issue. No amount of science will sway their firm stance against vaccines.
However, we feel it’s important as a health care organization to provide facts for our readers. That’s why we are taking this opportunity to discuss some of the arguments against the HPV vaccine and debunk many of the myths being spread on the Internet.
Myth 1: The HPV Vaccine is New
The United States currently has the safest, most effective vaccine supply in history. Years of testing are required by law to ensure the safety of vaccines before they are made available for use in the United States. This process can take 10 years or longer. Once a vaccine is in use, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) monitor any possible side effects (adverse events) through the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System and other vaccine safety systems.
The HPV vaccine – Gardasil® 9 – went through years of extensive safety testing before they were licensed by FDA. Tens of thousands of people participated in studies for the HPV vaccines. No serious safety concerns were identified in these clinical trials. FDA only licenses a vaccine if it is safe, effective and the benefits outweigh the risks. CDC and FDA continue to monitor HPV vaccines to make sure they are safe and beneficial for the public.
Myth 2: The HPV Vaccine Causes Side Effects
While no vaccine or medicine is completely without risk, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) & the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) review all safety info on HPV vaccines. Most reported adverse events following HPV vaccination are considered minor. Pain at injection site, headache, nausea, fever & fainting are the most common adverse events after HPV vaccination. Fainting occurs in some people because the vaccine stings a little more when it is given. Keeping vaccine recipients in a seated position for 15 minutes after the injection prevents fainting episodes. Click to learn more.
Approximately 79 million doses of HPV vaccine have been distributed since the vaccine was introduced, and no serious side effects have been linked to HPV vaccination. The most common side effects after HPV vaccine are mild and include pain in the arm where the shot was given, fever, dizziness, and nausea. For more information, click here.
Vaccines, like any medicine, can have side effects. Most people who get the HPV vaccine have no side effects at all. Some people report having very mild side effects, like a sore arm. The most common side effects are usually mild. Common side effects of HPV vaccine include:
- Pain, redness or swelling in the arm where the shot was given
- Headache or feeling tired
- Muscle or joint pain
Brief fainting spells and related symptoms (such as jerking movements) can happen after any medical procedure, including vaccination. Sitting or lying down while getting a shot and then staying that way for about 15 minutes can help prevent fainting and injuries caused by falls that could occur from fainting.
On very rare occasions, severe (anaphylactic) allergic reactions may occur after vaccination. People with severe allergies to any component of a vaccine should not receive that vaccine. Learn more here.
Mild or moderate problems following HPV vaccine:
Reactions in the arm where the shot was given:
- Soreness (about 9 people in 10)
- Redness or swelling (about 1 person in 3)
- Mild (100°F) (about 1 person in 10)
- Moderate (102°F) (about 1 person in 65)
- Headache (about 1 person in 3)
Problems that could happen after any injected vaccine:
- People sometimes faint after a medical procedure, including vaccination. Sitting or lying down for about 15 minutes can help prevent fainting and injuries caused by a fall. Tell your doctor if you feel dizzy, or have vision changes or ringing in the ears.
- Some people get severe pain in the shoulder and have difficulty moving the arm where a shot was given. This happens very rarely.
- Any medication can cause a severe allergic reaction. Such reactions from a vaccine are very rare, estimated at about 1 in a million doses, and would happen within a few minutes to a few hours after the vaccination.
Myth 3: The HPV Vaccine Could Cause Fertility Problems For My Child
Currently, there no legitimate data or any evidence that suggest getting the HPV vaccine will have an effect on future fertility for women. In fact, getting vaccinated and protecting against HPV-related cancers can help women and families have healthy pregnancies and healthy babies.
Not getting HPV vaccine leaves people vulnerable to HPV infection and related cancers. Treatments for cancers and precancers might include surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation, which might cause pregnancy complications or leave someone unable to have children. Click here to learn more.
Myth 4: A Child 11 Or 12 Years Old Is Too Young To Receive The Vaccine
For HPV vaccine to be most effective, the series should be given prior to exposure to HPV. Most of our kids (80 percent) will become infected with the types of HPV that can cause cancer unless they get vaccinated. Waiting increases the chance that they will become infected before the vaccine can protect them. Click to learn more.
Like all vaccines, we want to give HPV vaccine earlier rather than later. If you wait, your child may need three shots instead of two. More information on this topic can be found here.
From the American Academy of Pediatrics:
- More effective. Early vaccination prevents substantially more pre-cancer than late vaccination.
- Long lasting. Current evidence shows that the HPV vaccination does not wear off.
- Low risk of exposure. HPV vaccination only works if the series is complete before a person is infected. Almost no 9-12 years olds have HPV.
- More chances to vaccinate. Every visits on or after the ninth birthday is an opportunity to provide the vaccine.
- Better immunity. After receiving the HPV vaccine, pre-teens make more infection fighting antibodies than older teens. That is why they need only two doses of the vaccine at this age, instead of three.
Myth 5: HPV Vaccination Gives My Child Permission to Be Promiscuous
Research actually shows the opposite. According to a study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), HPV vaccination among 11 to 12 year olds did not increase sexual activity-related outcomes such as pregnancy, STD infection or testing or contraceptive counseling. Click here to read the study.
Studies tell us that getting the HPV vaccine doesn’t make kids more likely to start having sex. However, HPV is a very common infection in women and men that can cause cancer. Starting the vaccine series today will help protect your child from the cancers and diseases caused by HPV as an adult. Intimate contact that is short of intercourse (making out) is sufficient to transmit HPV. Click to learn more.
Myth 7: I Heard The Shot Causes HPV
The HPV vaccine does not cause HPV infection or cancer. The HPV vaccine is made from one protein from the virus, and is not infectious, meaning that it cannot cause HPV infection or cancer. Not receiving HPV vaccine at the recommended ages can leave one vulnerable to cancers caused by HPV. Click here to read about the science behind this statement.
Myth 8: The HPV Vaccine Is Too Expensive
Are you interested in getting HPV vaccine for your child but concerned about the cost? The Vaccines for Children (VFC) Program may be able to help. VFC provides vaccines for children ages 18 years and younger, who are uninsured, Medicaid-eligible, American Indian or Alaska Native. Learn more by clicking here.
Myth 9: The HPV Vaccine Damages Women’s Ovaries
The CDC is aware of public concern about the safety of HPV vaccine. Since the vaccine’s introduction in 2006, vaccine safety monitoring and studies conducted by the CDC, FDA and other organizations have documented a reassuring, excellent safety record. There is no current evidence that HPV vaccines cause reproductive problems in women.
What is primary ovarian insufficiency (POI)?
Also known as “premature menopause,” this is a condition in which a woman’s ovaries stop functioning before age 40. Causes of primary ovarian insufficiency include:
- Chemicals in the environment
- Cancer treatments
- Autoimmune disorders
- Some viral infections
However, in many cases it’s not possible to determine the cause. CDC and FDA have not found any proof that HPV vaccines cause POI.
Myth 10: The HPV Vaccine Contains Dangerous Amounts of Aluminum
Small amounts of aluminum have been used safely in vaccines for more than 70 years. It’s added to help the body build stronger immunity against the germ in the vaccine. Aluminum is one of the most common metals found in nature and is present in air, food and water. The amount of aluminum present in vaccines is low and is regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Aluminum is present in U.S. childhood vaccines that prevent hepatitis A, hepatitis B, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTaP, Tdap), Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), human papillomavirus (HPV) and pneumococcus infection. Click here to learn more.
Myth 11: The HPV Vaccine Doesn’t Really Prevent Cancer
Every year, more than 30,000 people in the US are diagnosed with a cancer caused by HPV. That’s one case every 20 minutes.
More Articles On HPV:
- New Study Says Boys Less Likely to be offered HPV vaccination
- ‘We Have a Vaccine That Can Prevent Cancer'
- Texas Ranks Near Last in HPV Vaccination Rate
- Study Finds 1 in 9 Males Infected with Oral HPV
- Pediatrician Leads New Initiative To Improve HPV Vaccination Rates
- Protection From HPV Now Easier For Kids
- Early Evidence Shows HPV Is Working
- HPV Raises Risk of Head and Neck Cancer Sevenfold
- What's New With the HPV vaccine?