HPV (Human Papillomavirus)

When should I immunize my child to protect against HPV?

Your child is recommended to receive the immunizations that will protect him or her against HPV, at the following ages:

Dose 1 - HPV vaccine

Grade 5

Dose 2 - HPV vaccine

Grade 5

Dose 3 - HPV vaccine

Grade 5

PLEASE NOTE: Starting in September 2014, boys in Grade 9 will also be offered this vaccine (three doses) as a catch-up program, which will run through 2018.

See full schedule.

HPV quick facts:

HPV causes almost all cases of cervical cancers in women, and approximately 100% of head and neck cancers in Albertan men under the age of 40.

HPV also causes skin warts and genital warts.

HPV is passed through sexual contact.

The risk of HPV infection occurs when sexual activity begins.

About 70% of individuals have at least one HPV infection in their lifetime.

There is no treatment or cure for HPV infection.

What can happen to my child if he or she gets HPV?

HPV can cause a number of serious health issues, including many kinds of cancer. HPV is responsible for almost all cases of cervical cancers in women, and approximately 100% of head and neck cancers in Albertan men under the age of 40. And that’s in addition to anal, penile, vaginal and vulvar cancers. Anal and genital warts are also caused by HPV.

About the immunization:

HPV can be prevented through immunization.

The vaccine that protects your child against HPV infection is the HPV vaccine.

Safety

When your child gets the HPV vaccine, your child’s immune system will be prompted to build antibodies that protect – or “arm” – your child against HPV.

Your child cannot get HPV, or any other diseases, from the HPV vaccine.

This vaccine is safe, and provides your child with protection against a disease that is not safe.

The risk that HPV poses to your child’s health is far greater than any risk related to immunizing your child against HPV. 

Learn more about General Vaccine Safety here.

Safety checks before immunization

Your child will most likely receive his or her HPV immunization through his or her in-school immunization program (in Grade 5 and/or Grade 9).  Before your child can be immunized at his or her school, your consent is required.  You will receive a package from your school, including information on the HPV vaccine, and a consent form.  The consent form will ask you questions about your child's health history, including medical conditions and allergies.  It is through this form that we make sure your child can safely be immunized with the HPV vaccine.  Be sure to read the form and all other information provided to you, and complete the form in full.  If you have additional questions about the in-school immunization, you can dial 811 for Health Link.

If your child attends a school that does not include the HPV immunization in the in-school program, you can instead arrange for your child to receive the HPV immunization through appointment your local Community Health Centre.  You will attend the immunizing appointment with your child, and at that appointment, your nurse will ask you about your child's health history before giving your child any vaccines. This will include questions about any medicines your child is taking, health conditions your child has or is experiencing, as well as any allergies your child may have. Your nurse will guide you on what is safe for your child, based on your child’s health history.          

When your nurse talks to you about your child’s health history, it is important that you inform your nurse if your child:

  • is sick or has a fever greater than 38.5 C (101.3 F)
  • has allergies to any part of the vaccine
  • is allergic to any foods, drugs, bee stings, etc.
  • has a weakened immune system (immune compromised)
  • has had an allergic reaction (such as anaphylaxis) to this or other vaccines in the past

Your nurse will guide you on what is safe for your child, based on your child’s health history.      

PLEASE NOTE: Your child should NOT get the vaccine if he/she has had a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to this vaccine in the past.

What can I expect my child to experience after immunization?

For a day or two after your child receives the HPV vaccine, he or she may have redness, swelling and soreness in the area where the needle was given.

Less commonly, your child may have one or several of the following temporary symptoms:

  • a slight fever
  • nausea
  • dizziness
  • headache
  • vomiting
  • fainting

How can I manage my child’s symptoms after immunization?

No matter your child’s age, it is normal for him or her to experience some common, mild and temporary symptoms after immunization. 

Here are a few tips to manage these mild symptoms:

  • Fever. Acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) or ibuprofen (such as Advil) will lower a fever. Follow the instructions on the medicine package carefully. If you are not sure whether your child’s fever is related to the immunization, dial 811 for Health Link or talk to your doctor or pharmacist, before giving your child medicine. Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 20 years of age. Aspirin increases the risk of a rare but serious disease called Reye Syndrome.
  • Headache. Acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) or ibuprofen (such as Advil) may help relieve a headache. Follow the instructions on the medicine package carefully.

Allergic reactions after immunization are rare, occurring at an estimated annual rate of only one per one million doses of vaccine distributed in Canada. Our nurses will ask that your child stay for 15 minutes after your child receives his or her immunizations. This will allow the nurse to identify any rare unusual responses to vaccine that could occur. 

If you are concerned about symptoms your child is experiencing after immunization, dial 811 for Health Link to speak to a registered nurse, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If your child is experiencing severe shortness of breath, call 911. 

Additional Resources

Uncertain about immunizing your son or daughter against HPV? Here’s a tool designed specifically for you, to help you weigh the pros and cons, and reach a decision that you’re comfortable with.