Pick-Up Date (MM/DD/YYYY)
    Pick Up Date

    Find a store

    Change Store Notice
    Changing your store will remove Rx items from your cart.
    Your Store: Select a store


    If you've wondered about the HPV vaccination — what it is and if you should receive it — you're not alone.* The human papillomavirus (HPV) affects a surprising number of people and is probably more common than you think. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a jaw-dropping 85% of people will become infected with HPV in their lifetime. Thirteen million Americans experience an HPV infection every year.


    The good news is that most HPV infections will go away on their own. HPV includes hundreds of different but related viruses, or strains — some of which can cause cancer or genital warts. As the old adage goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Learn how the HPV vaccination can protect your health.


    Why Should You Receive the HPV Vaccine?

    HPV is typically transmitted through sexual or other skin-to-skin contact. Unfortunately, condoms don't offer complete protection against it, and there's no treatment for it yet. However, HPV vaccination can help prevent you from getting infected in the first place.


    Avoiding HPV means preventing the other medical conditions that can come along with it, including multiple types of cancer and genital warts, as mentioned. According to the American Cancer Society, the vaccine can prevent more than 90% of HPV-related cancers when given at the recommended ages.


    Cancer Prevention

    In women, HPV can cause cancer of the cervix, vagina and vulva. For men, it can be responsible for cancer of the penis. And regardless of your sex, HPV can cause cancer of the anus and the back of the throat (also known as oropharyngeal cancer), including the base of the tongue and tonsils.


    Genital Warts Prevention

    An HPV infection can also cause skin or mucous membrane growths, also known as genital warts (in medical terms, condyloma acuminatum). Genital warts can appear separately or in clusters, in the anal or genital areas, including the shaft of the penis, on the scrotum, vagina or labia majora, as well on the internal surfaces of the vagina or anus. They tend to be small (no larger than 5 millimeters in diameter) but can spread into larger areas in the genital or anal regions. While they're usually the same color as your skin, they can also be darker and may bleed spontaneously or cause itching, redness or discomfort.


    If you think you might have genital warts, don't wait to seek medical attention. You might be embarrassed or stressed, but your provider is there to help you without judgment. And in most cases, genital warts are the only identifiable symptom of an HPV infection. The sooner you have a diagnosis, the sooner you can get screened and treated for HPV-related cancers and let your sexual partner(s) know they've been exposed to the infection.


    HPV Vaccination Is Safe and Effective

    If you're nervous about whether the HPV vaccination is safe, you're not alone. Of parents who declined the vaccine in 2018, nearly a quarter cited safety concerns.


    But the data tells a different story. According to the CDC, the vaccine has been given more than 135 million times since it was first introduced — and the evidence has consistently shown it to be safe and effective. With the exception of fainting (which is more common in adolescents after getting any vaccine), the rate of adverse events is low.


    Still, you might be wondering, what is the HPV vaccine exactly? It might help to know that the vaccine is made from only one part of the virus. Therefore, it's impossible to get the HPV infection, genital warts or cancer from the vaccine.


    Like any medication, the HPV vaccine comes with potential side effects; however, they tend to be mild and short-lived. They include:


    • Pain, redness or swelling at the injection site

    • Low grade-fever

    • Dizziness or fainting

    • Nausea

    • Headache

    • Fatigue

    • Pain in muscles or joints


    If you experience any adverse events, immediately contact your healthcare provider for guidance.


    Since the HPV vaccine was first made available in the United States, the rates of HPV and cervical precancers have dropped significantly. For teen girls, cases of the HPV types that cause most HPV-related cancers and genital warts dropped by 88%. Among adult women, those types of HPV fell by 81%. And, the number of cervical precancers caused by the HPV strains most frequently associated with cancer decreased by 40% among vaccinated women.


    Data also shows that fewer teens and young adults have been diagnosed with genital warts since the HPV vaccine became available.


    Additionally, remaining unvaccinated can affect your fertility by making you vulnerable to HPV-related cancers and precancers (i.e., abnormal cells that may become cancerous). Those HPV-related cancers can necessitate treatment such as a hysterectomy, chemotherapy or radiation, all of which can interfere with fertility. Even if you don't have a cancer diagnosis, cervical precancer treatment can increase the chances of having problems with your cervix, which can cause preterm delivery.


    Public Health Impact

    According to 2021 data from the Healthy People 2030 initiative, 58.5% of adolescents ages 13 to 15 received the HPV vaccine on the recommended schedule. However, their goal is to boost that number to 80%.


    Research suggests that broad HPV vaccination could decrease cervical cancer cases by as much as 90% worldwide. Plus, vaccination can reduce the demand for expensive and stressful screenings, along with the additional diagnostic tests and treatments that are required after an abnormal cervical screening.


    The number of people who experience HPV-related cancers and genital warts has already dropped significantly since the vaccine was approved. If more people get the vaccine, as a community, we can be even more effective in stopping the spread of HPV — and the other health issues it creates — via herd immunity.


    Getting vaccinated for HPV isn't just good for you — it's good for your community, too. Also known as herd protection, herd immunity helps to protect the entire population, even if every single person hasn't been vaccinated. While the vaccine directly protects those who have received it, it also decreases the prevalence of HPV in the population, thereby decreasing infection rates among individuals who aren't vaccinated.


    Research shows the power of herd immunity. As one cited example in Australia, over a four-year period during which a high percentage of girls were vaccinated, the incidence of genital warts decreased among both boys and girls — even though the boys weren't yet part of the vaccination initiative. Additionally, researchers in the U.S. looked at women aged 20-29 in a specific region and found that within roughly 10 years of vaccine availability, HPV cases decreased in both vaccinated and unvaccinated women.


    The Ideal Time to Receive the HPV Vaccine

    While the HPV vaccine is safe for anyone age nine and older, it's recommended that adolescents of all genders receive it by age 11 or 12, or before they become sexually active. This gives your body the chance to develop immunity to HPV before you've been exposed to it. If you receive the vaccine once you're sexually active (even into adulthood), it may not be as effective. However, it can still protect you from the HPV strains you haven't yet encountered.


    The number of times and how often you get the vaccine depends on the age you received your first dose. If you're 15 or younger, it's recommended that you have two doses, six to 12 months apart. If you opt for the vaccine between the ages of 15 and 26, three doses are given over a six-month period. If you're between 27and 45, talk to your healthcare provider to determine your best option.


    There are certain groups of people for whom the vaccine is not recommended. You should not receive the vaccine if you're pregnant, have had an allergic reaction to your first HPV shot (or have severe, life-threatening allergies) or if you're feeling sick at the time.


    Once you've been fully vaccinated, the protection remains effective for years to come. Researchers followed people who received the HPV vaccine for 12 years and found that their protection against HPV remained solid with no signs of waning over time. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, there's no need for a booster shot.


    Types of HPV Vaccines

    There are several different HPV vaccines licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.* They include:


    • 9-valent HPV vaccine

      • Drug name: 9vHPV

      • Brand name: Gardasil-9

      • Offers protection from nine strains of HPV


    • Quadrivalent HPV vaccine

      • Drug name: 4vHPV

      • Brand name: Gardasil

      • Offers protection from four strains of HPV


    • Bivalent HPV vaccine

      • Drug name: 2vHPV

      • Brand name: Cervarix

      • Offers protection from two strains of HPV


    However, since the end of 2016, Gardisil-9 has been the only HPV vaccine distributed in the United States. This vaccine protects against nine strains of HPV, including 6, 11, 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52 and 58.


    The HPV Vaccine and You

    The HPV vaccine is a vital piece of the puzzle when it comes to your long-term reproductive and sexual health. It can protect you from HPV infections, cancers and other health conditions associated with the virus. While it's ideal to get vaccinated before you're sexually active, the vaccine can still offer important protection later in life. And that safeguard isn't just good for you — by boosting herd immunity, it benefits your entire community. Not only does it keep the entire population healthier, but it also cuts down on healthcare costs associated with HPV-related cancers.


    If you have questions about the HPV vaccine, bring them to your doctor or your child's pediatrician. And if vaccination is right for you, you may be able to schedule your appointment at Rite Aid, depending on the state in which you live. So, what are you waiting for?


    *Some vaccinations may be contraindicated in certain individuals. Your pharmacist or healthcare professional will help determine your vaccination eligibility.


    These articles are intended for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and are not intended to treat or cure any disease. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in these articles. Advances in medicine may cause this information to become outdated, invalid, or subject to debate. Professional opinions and interpretations of scientific literature may vary. Consult your healthcare professional before making changes to your diet, exercise or medication regimen.


    Related Articles
    Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccine & Immunization| Rite Aid Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccine & Immunization| Rite Aid