HPV (Human Papillomavirus) Vaccine

HPV vaccine prevents health problems associated with Human Papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a virus that is so common that almost all sexually active men and women get it at some point in their lives.

In most cases, HPV goes away on its own and does not cause serious health problems. When HPV does not go away, it can be dangerous. The health problems it can cause include genital warts and cancers of the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis, anus, and throat.

HPV is spread through genital contact. Males and females can spread HPV without engaging in sexual intercourse. However, it is most commonly spread through oral, vaginal, or anal sex. HPV can be spread even when an infected person has no signs or symptoms.

What you should do

Get vaccinated, or make sure that your children are vaccinated

HPV vaccine is available through doctors and at school-based clinics through Vaccinate Before You Graduate. Boys and girls should start the HPV vaccine series at 11 or 12 years old. HPV vaccine is given in three shots over six months. It is important that all three doses are given. HPV vaccine is safe and effective.

Note: Per recent ACIP recommendations, adolescents 9 - 14 years of age need 2 doses of HPV vaccine for series completion, and adolescents 15 - 26 years of age need 3 doses for series completion.

Doctors start administering the vaccine to people when they are 11 or 12 years old because peoples' bodies have the strongest immune response to the vaccine at those ages. Additionally, people should be vaccinated against HPV before they begin any type of sexual activity.

HPV vaccination provides the most benefit when given before a person is exposed to any HPV. This is why CDC recommends HPV vaccination at age 11–12 years. HPV vaccination is also recommended through age 26 years for everyone who did not get vaccinated when they were younger.

Vaccination is not recommended for everyone older than age 26 years. In general, HPV vaccination of people in this age range provides minimal benefit because most people have been exposed to HPV already. However, some adults aged 27–45 years who are not adequately vaccinated might be at risk for new HPV infection and might benefit from vaccination.

For adults who are 27–45 years old, clinicians can consider discussing HPV vaccination with people who are most likely to benefit. For more details, see Human Papillomavirus Vaccination for Adults: Updated Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices | MMWR (cdc.gov).

HPV vaccination prevents new HPV infections but does not treat existing infections or diseases.

What we are doing

Supplying HPV Vaccine

The Office of Immunization supplies HPV vaccine to healthcare providers throughout Rhode Island. Additionally, the Office of Immunization partners with the Wellness Company to make HPV vaccine available at school-based clinics through Vaccinate Before You Graduate.

Including HPV Vaccination in School Immunization Regulations

Rhode Island students are required to begin the HPV vaccine series before 7th grade entry. HPV vaccination is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Rhode Island incorporates all CDC routinely recommended vaccines into its school immunization regulations.

If a child cannot be vaccinated against a disease for religious or medical reasons, that child can be exempted from immunization against that disease. Religious exemption forms can be obtained from a school nurse. Medical exemption forms are given by doctors. (Exemption forms can be ordered online by healthcare providers.)

Raising Awareness

The Department of Health partners with healthcare providers and schools throughout the state to promote vaccination against HPV. Additionally, in June 2015 the Department of Health launched a public awareness campaign to encourage parents to have their children vaccinated against HPV.

Additional resources