There's a girl in my class who says that getting the HPV vaccine will make you prone to becoming paralyzed. Is this true?
Your classmate was probably talking about Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS). GBS is a rare medical condition where a person's immune system attacks the nerves. People who get GBS can sometimes become paralyzed. Most of the time it's temporary and the person gets better.
Scientists don't know exactly what causes GBS, but it can be brought on by infections and occasionally by vaccines. A few people have had GBS after the HPV vaccine. Experts don't know if the shots caused this or if the people would have had GBS anyway and just happened to get the vaccine around the same time.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have investigated the HPV vaccine and approved it as safe. The CDC and FDA continue to monitor the vaccine to make sure it's not causing serious health problems — just like they do with any vaccine.
Although all vaccines carry a small risk of an allergic reaction, any side effects with the HPV shot are mostly minor. Someone might notice swelling or pain at the site of the shot, or feel faint after getting the shot.
Doctors recommend that all guys and girls get the vaccine at the age of 11 or 12 to protect them against the serious problems that HPV can cause (like cancer).
Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben Joseph, MD
Date reviewed: March 2014
*Names have been changed to protect user privacy.
|American Sexual Health Association This nonprofit organization is dedicated to preventing sexually transmitted diseases and offers hotlines for prevention and control of STDs.|
|Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) The CDC (the national public health institute of the United States) promotes health and quality of life by preventing and controlling disease, injury, and disability.|
|U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) The FDA is responsible for protecting the public health by ensuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, medical devices, our nation's food supply, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation.|
|Immunization Action Coalition This organization is a source of childhood, adolescent, and adult immunization information as well as hepatitis B educational materials.|
|Planned Parenthood Federation of America Planned Parenthood offers information on sexually transmitted diseases, birth control methods, and other issues of sexual health.|
|CDC: Preteen and Teen Vaccines CDC site provides materials in English and Spanish for parents, teens, preteens, and health care providers about vaccines and the diseases they prevent.|
|The History of Vaccines The History of Vaccines is an informational, educational website created by The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, the oldest professional society in the United States.|
|What's a Normal Reaction to a Shot? Find out what the experts have to say.|
|HPV Vaccine The HPV vaccine can help protect against the virus that causes genital warts and may lead to some kinds of cancer. Find out more in this article for teens.|
|Genital Warts (HPV) You've probably heard lots about sexually transmitted diseases. The good news is that STDs can be prevented. For information on how to protect yourself and how to treat genital warts, read this article.|
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