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), a rare medical condition where the immune system attacks the nerves. GBS can sometimes lead to paralysis, but it is usually temporary.
Scientists don't know exactly what causes GBS, but it can be triggered by infections and occasionally by vaccines. A few people have had GBS after the HPV vaccine. But experts don't know whether the shots caused these cases or if the people would have had GBS anyway and just happened to get the HPV vaccine around the same time.
Although all vaccines carry a small risk of an allergic reaction, most of the side effects seen with the HPV vaccine are minor, such as swelling or pain at the site of the shot, or feeling faint after getting the shot. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is monitoring the vaccine closely to make sure more serious reported health problems are a coincidence and are not caused by the vaccine.
While vaccination against HPV is optional, it is recommended. Doctors believe it's best to get vaccinated for protection against the serious problems that HPV can cause (like cancer). Most people have no trouble with the vaccine, but anyone who doesn't want to get the shots doesn't have to.
If you decide to get the vaccine, you can lessen your risk of side effects like fainting by sitting down for 15 minutes after each shot.
Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
Date reviewed: July 2011
*Names have been changed to protect user privacy.
|American Social 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 mission of the CDC is to promote health and quality of life by preventing and controlling disease, injury, and disability. Call: (800) CDC-INFO|
|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.|
|Planned Parenthood Federation of America Planned Parenthood offers information on sexually transmitted diseases, birth control methods, and other issues of sexual health.|
|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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