HPV vaccine update: How many shots are really needed?

Getting the vaccine that protects against cervical cancer just got easier (at least for the youngsters).

We’ve known for a while that the HPV vaccine can protect against certain common kinds of human papillomavirus (HPV), which in turn means protection against genital warts and certain kinds of cancer. HPV is incredibly common, so the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that all young people in the U.S. get vaccinated. For a long time, experts thought three shots were needed to fully protect against the virus, but new research has shown that for younger teens, two shots will do the trick.

That’s good news for anyone who doesn’t have health insurance, or just for anyone with a busy life that makes repeated trips to a health care provider a challenge. Another piece of good news: while the brands of HPV vaccine have multiplied, the CDC says they all offer the same protection against the most common cancer-causing HPV strains.

Does this mean I don’t have to get my third shot?

Unfortunately, this new recommendation only applies to preteens and young teens (9-14 years old). It doesn’t mean that two shots won’t be enough for folks 15 and up, it just means that we don’t have the hard science yet. While we’re waiting for science to catch up, health care providers will still recommend that anyone who starts the vaccine a bit later (15-26 years old) get all three doses. For more information about who can get these shots when, check out the CDC’s extensive HPV info.

Want to learn more?

Select one of the related topics to find more.