HPV vaccine: Know the myths and the facts

August 13, 2015

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends girls and boys ages 11 and 12 receive a vaccine to protect them against human papillomavirus (HPV). The virus, which can be spread through sexual activity, is the cause of most cases of cervical cancer and some cancers of the throat and genitals. “Research shows the HPV vaccines are very beneficial,” says Zoe Stallings, MD, a family medicine doctor at Duke Primary Care Wake Forest.

Misinformation may be preventing many adolescents from getting this important vaccine. Here are some common myths and the fact.

MYTH: The HPV vaccines are dangerous.

FACT: Studies show the vaccines are safe. Many young people experience pain, redness and swelling at the injection site, and some have an allergic reaction, so those who receive the vaccine are monitored carefully afterwards. 

MYTH: The vaccine encourages young people to be sexually active.

FACT: A recent study from the CDC showed the HPV vaccination was not  associated with earlier sexual behavior.

MYTH: The HPV vaccines are not really necessary.

FACT: The vaccines will prevent many people from experiencing or dying from cancer. The vaccines are 95 percent effective in preventing cervical pre-cancers caused by high-risk HPV. And they may reduce cancers of the throat and genitals.

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