Common Myths About the HPV Vaccine

HPV mythsWhen it comes to vaccines, particularly the HPV vaccine, it can be hard to separate fact from fiction. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that girls and boys aged 11 or 12 years be vaccinated against HPV, the human papillomavirus, which can be spread during sexual activity and can cause cervical cancer in women and cancers of the genital and throat regions in both sexes. The two available HPV vaccines – Cervarix and Gardasil – protect against most of the cancers caused by HPV infection (Gardasil is approved for males and females).

Here are some common myths and misconceptions about HPV:

MYTH: Only girls need to be vaccinated against HPV infection.

FACT: While the vaccines protect against about 70 percent of cervical cancers, they also provide protection against most of HPV-related genital cancers in men, and against 90 percent of genital warts in women and men.


MYTH: Only people who are sexually active need to be vaccinated.

FACT: Even if one is not sexually active at the time of vaccination, the vaccine provides protection when sexual activity begins or resumes. The vaccine works best when given at a younger age; research shows that young people generate more disease-fighting antibodies in response to the vaccine than those vaccinated in their late teens.


MYTH: Only people with multiple sexual partners can get HPV.

FACT: Infection can occur from a single partner, in a single instance of sexual activity.


MYTH: Women who get the HPV vaccine don’t need a Pap test.

FACT: Women who are vaccinated against HPV still need to get regular Pap smears to screen for cervical cancer. Both Gardasil and Cervarix protect against the two most common strains of HPV that cause cervical cancer in he United States (HPV-16 and HPV-18). (Garadsil 9, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in December, protects against nine strains in all.)


MYTH: The vaccine can transmit the virus and cause cancer.

FACT: The vaccine cannot spread HPV infection or cause cancer or other HPV-related diseases such as genital warts.


MYTH: Condoms can prevent transmission of HPV.

FACT: They offer only partial protection, as they don’t cover all portions of the genitals.


MYTH: The odds of contracting an HPV infection are quite low.

FACT: HPV infection is actually quite common and the virus is spread by skin-to-skin contact. It’s true that most cases of HPV infection are sexually transmitted, but even people who have never had sexual intercourse can be infected by the virus.


MYTH: HPV vaccines have dangerous side effects.

FACT: The vaccines are safe. The most common side effects are pain and/or redness and swelling at the site of the injection – essentially the same as those associated with most vaccines. It’s routine for patients to be monitored for an allergic reaction for 15 minutes after receiving the vaccine. Any allergic reactions that occur within that period can be quickly and successfully treated.

20 responses to “Common Myths About the HPV Vaccine

  1. Have any studies been done to be sure down the road this vaccine will not cause any issues when kids vaccinated try to have kids. I want to protect my kids from getting HPV but this vaccine feels too new to be sure no long terms side effects. What type of studies have been done on this vaccine? How long has it been followed for possible issues?

    1. Guinea pigs, that’s all our children are to the government. I’m from the Baby Boom generation and I suffered for years with Endometriosis. If they don’t even know what causes “that” yet and don’t have a cure, how can you trust them with their pushing yet “another” potentially unsafe vaccine for our kids! Teach them abstinence until marriage. That’s the safest best for your precious children.

  2. The article states: “The two available HPV vaccines – Cervarix and Gardasil – protect against most of the cancers caused by HPV infection (Gardasil is used only in males).”

    I don’t think Gardasil is used only in males. Their website states otherwise. I am a female and I received the Gardasil vaccine. Can you please verify this information?? Thanks

    1. Hi Madelyn —
      So sorry for the confusion – the way we phrased that sentence in the post was not clear. Gardasil is approved for both males and females. We have adjusted the post to clarify. Thank you for your comment and for reading Insight!

    2. My daughter was forced to get the gardasil vaccines a total of 3 shots in 9 months) or she would have been thrown out of school! She wasn’t even sexually active at that age, she had just turned 12 when the notice was mailed to me from the school board. No offence but I think forcing people into something doesn’t give them the chance/right to discuss the meds or application. I’m not an anti-vaxer just a concerned mother.

      1. Not true. Misinformation. HPV vaccine is safe and effective but not mandatory for any school district. The tetanus whooping cough vaccine also given at age 11 in most school districts.

  3. Wow, you people answer questions. Good to know it. Here is mine, Not necesary to have intercourse to be infected with the virus. Explain it. Skin to skin. I have 3 kids. They never ask questions but, they may start wondering things soon. Specially my dgter who is 13. I don’t want to give the vaccine to her. But it about skin is a big concern now. Please replay.

  4. M – gardasil has been around for over a decade.

    Marita – skin to skin meaning genitals to skin, oral sex, dry humping, handling of the genitals during urination possible? Why wouldn’t you get her vaccinated? HPV is one of the most common STDs out there and most have no symptoms. Protect her early and save her life and anyone she might potentially be with in the future.

  5. Please please please do research on these vaccines before giving them to your children. I am a 24 year old female. I recently decided to get this vaccine. I have only received the first 2 shots in the gardasil series, I’m due for the last one in a few weeks. I won’t be getting it. I have felt like complete crap ever since receiving this vaccine. No energy or motivation, hot flashes/cold sweats and just not feeling good in general. I don’t know 100% my symptoms are caused by gardasil but after reading the side effects straight from gardasils website (that weren’t on the printout my Dr. gave me), and other people’s stories so I feel like this must be why. My symptoms got worse after the second shot. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t get this vaccine, I am only asking that you do plenty of research before so.

  6. Shari- while the reaction you had seems awful – is it possible you have a sensitivity to vaccines? I got the vaccine 10 years ago when it initially came out (Gardasil), and I can assure you…it is effective. I did not experience any side effects. The fact that there is a vaccine for a preventable STD is amazing, when kids are young and naive and think they’re invincible and being safe. With how common HPV is, and that it can be transmitted so easily, it’s negligent to not get the vaccine if you’re sexually active. To anyone who has not done their research, HPV is a virus that clears up by itself within a few years, however, depending on the type you have – you can be at significant health risks of cancer. Not every type is the same. If you’re anti-vaccine, good for you. But it is groundbreaking that something that can spread so easily be prevented.God help you if don’t practice safe sex and are stupid enough not to protect yourself.

    1. I had this vaccine when I was in high school, in a series of three shots at different times. I still contracted HPV.

  7. I have a 12 year old son. I have hesitated to let him have the vaccine because 1) he has had vaccine sensitvity 2) severe reactions to antibiotics and 3) I am interested in knowing how the medication is for Asian people. Not every race reacts the same to medicines. Can you provide any information regarding Asian people that have had this vaccine? Also, with his negative reactions to vaccines and antibiotics is it wise to proceed with the vaccine. I am not anti-vaccine, at the same time if this will cause health problems I don’t see the merit in it.

  8. After receiving the third Gardasil shot from my pediatrician I developed Juvenile Ideopathic Rheumatoid arthritis now I have to take Humira 40mg shots and methltrexate for the swelling and joint pain.I now have chronic pain and stiffness of all my joints.

    1. Taylor, it’s likely that you would have developed arthritis no matter what. I speak as someone who has been diagnosed with arthritis and systemic lupus erythmatosis since the age of 15, more than 23 years ago and never had this vaccine because I was already outside of the prime age range. I give thanks to the doctors and scientists on a daily basis seek a cure for me and until then, relief. I also intend to seek out this vaccine for my son when he is of age as I hope and pray that it will protect him from preventable and easily transmitted cancers.

  9. Don’t fall for the fear mongering, or the false idea that these vaccinations do what they are purported to do. Do more research on the negative effects of these vaccines. Why else are leading international doctors saying”NO!”? There are about a hundred HPV strains and the vaccines ”protect ” from 2-9 strains. Also missing for this article is the well known fact that our bodies tend to clear the virus on its own within a year or two, before ever becoming any sort of cervical cancer. There is no evidence showing that the vaccines prevent cancer, only that they go after a couple of strains of the virus. Big difference. Also, check to see how many people actually get cervical cancer….one country reports they would have to vaccinate 20,000 girls in order to prevent one case of cervical cancer ( remember, this doesn’t mean a fatality) .

  10. Did you report your symptoms to VAERS? This is the vaccine adverse event reporting system? The number is 800-822-7967. Good luck to you!

  11. I’m skeptical of the vaccine. My daughter had the shots I think the first when she was 13. Now 18 and she never starter her period. After being told it could be many different things and having several test to rule them out the final outcome was premature ovarian failure. They can’t say for sure what caused this. Possible an auto immunine disorder. I’m still not sure if it was caused by this vaccine. I wish I knew for sure.

  12. For an article that purports to clear up myths it plays loose with vague information. “MYTH: The odds of contracting an HPV infection are quite low. FACT: HPV infection is actually quite common and the virus is spread by skin-to-skin contact.” Yes, HPV is very common – the majority of adults probably have some form of HPV. We aren’t all dropping dead from it. The vaccine only prevents a handful of types of HPV – those that are believed to cause cancer (which is the important part). The odds of dying from an HPV related cancer in your lifetime are not that high.

    “MYTH: HPV vaccines have dangerous side effects. FACT: The vaccines are safe.” While rare, I suspect the people who have had serious side effects would disagree.

    Read up on the side effects and the risks of HPV-related cancer. I don’t know the exact numbers, but if you were given the choice between 1 in 40,000 chance of serious side effects now vs. a 1 in 10,000 chance of dying from cancer 30 years from now, which would you choose?

  13. There have also been studies to disprove the effectivness of the vaccine, here and other countries have shown cases of negative side effects and proof that HPV in its entirety can not be prevented. Can you disprove/ dispute these studies/ findings?

  14. Do not get vaccine 10 countries banned it for good reasons ! Whistleblower expert testimony from pharma comps provide proof that vaccine useless with horrendous severe side effects , google it, read learn , this dangerous scam is all for profit !

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