Myth-busting: HPV Vaccine

Every year in the U.S, there are about 13,000 new cases of cervical cancer diagnosed and about 4,000 deaths.1 Hispanic women have the highest rates of cervical cancer diagnoses, while mortality rates are highest among Black women.1 The main cause of cervical cancer is long-lasting infection with certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is passed from one person to another through sex but can be prevented with the HPV vaccine. The HPV vaccine is recommended for pre-teen girls and boys at age 11 or 12 and can be given as young as age 9. There are many misperceptions about the HPV vaccine in the market. Below are three common myths and misconceptions about HPV vaccination for adolescents you might have heard and some information to aid in your decision to get vaccinated or vaccinate your children.

Myth #1: The HPV vaccine is not safe and causes reproductive issues.

Some people worry that HPV vaccination can affect fertility or cause ovarian failure. The truth is that… well, it doesn’t. A 2018 study found no connection between adolescent vaccination and ovarian failure.2 The vaccine has been thoroughly studied for decades and its safety confirmed by multiple credible and reliable authorities (e.g. the World Health Organization (WHO), the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)).

Myth #2: Sexual intercourse is not a concern for preteens. We should not be vaccinating them against HPV.

Although preteens may not be sexually active, the vaccine is most effective when administered at a younger age before exposure to the virus. Adolescents vaccinated under the age of 15 have better immune responses than their peers who are vaccinated at older ages.2 Studies subsequently showed that HPV antibodies increase after two doses – this is why the current recommendation is for 2 doses of the HPV vaccine.2 Lastly, although HPV is most often transmitted through sexual contact, there are non-sexual ways to become infected and the vaccine protects you against those methods of transmission as well.1

Myth #3: The HPV vaccine is for females only.

The HPV vaccine is NOT gender-specific. Although males who do not have a cervix cannot get cervical cancer, they still run the risk of becoming infected with HPV. HPV is linked to multiple other cancers like anal, penile, and oropharyngeal cancer (all of which occur in males by the way!). Furthermore, 45% of genital HPV infection in the United States is among males aged 18 to 59 years old.2 Therefore, it is recommended that both boys and girls receive the HPV vaccination.

All in all, like many vaccines, the HPV vaccine is a proven preventative measure. It ensures that girls and boys alike, are protected from illness later in life. For more information about the HPV and other recommended vaccines for teens, check out this infographic.


  1. Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cervical Cancer. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published December 6, 2022. Accessed January 24, 2023.
  2. Taumberger N, Joura EA, Arbyn M, et al. Myths and fake messages about human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination: answers from the ESGO Prevention Committee. International Journal of Gynecologic Cancer. Published Online. 12 July 2022. doi: 10.1136/ijgc-2022-003685


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Natalie Cordero

Natalie Cordero

Natalie is a Communications, Outreach and Development Intern at the Unity Consortium. She is responsible for developing and implementing efficient health promotion and communication strategies and connecting with strategic partners in various related fields.

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