October 11th, 2010
09:25 AM ET

If I didn't finish HPV vaccine, do I have to start over?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Monday, it's Dr. Jennifer Shu, a pediatrician.

Question asked by Laura of Wyoming:

At least two years ago, I received the first of three shots for the HPV vaccine. At the time, I was not told about the additional shots, and so never got them. Am I still able to do the vaccine, whether I start over again or just get the next two shots? Can I be tested for HPV to see if it's even worth it any more?

Expert answer:

Thank you for your questions. I consulted with Dr. Jill Grimes, author of "Seductive Delusions: How Everyday People Catch STDs," to better address your concerns. She reports that HPV (human papillomavirus) currently affects about 20 million people in the United States, including more than half of all adults at some point in their lifetime. While most infections cause no symptoms and go away on their own, some virus strains can cause genital warts as well as cancer of the cervix or anus.

The HPV vaccine that you most likely received two years ago protects against two different strains of virus that cause cervical cancer and two others that cause genital warts. The vaccine schedule calls for three shots spread out over the course of six or more months to help maximize immunity. Having one dose may give a person some protection against the virus strains but three doses will probably help the protection last longer. Patients are also advised to complete the entire series in hopes of protecting against any strains they have not yet contracted and are at risk of catching.

It is not necessary to repeat the first dose; however, the second dose is recommended to be given now (at least one month following the first dose) and the third dose should be given at least three months after the second dose, with a minimum of six months between the first and third doses. Of note, the HPV vaccine has recently been licensed for use in males to prevent two strains that cause genital warts and follows the same vaccination schedule.

Current recommendations call for starting Pap and HPV testing at age 21 but it's never too soon to start testing for other sexually transmitted diseases as soon as one becomes sexually active. Remember, STDs are often silent, and infections such as chlamydia and gonorrhea can cause damage that leads to chronic pelvic pain or infertility if left untreated.

Be sure to consult with your own gynecologist or primary care physician for more guidance about your own situation. Good luck!

soundoff (62 Responses)
  1. SeanNJ

    Don't you have unvaccinated children you should be making afraid of the world? It would be terrible if they didn't know what to be terrified of today.

    October 11, 2010 at 10:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. werratai

    Hand out 40 million popsicles and you'll probably see more deaths "related" to the popsicles.
    you are talking about a complication rate of less than .00025%

    October 11, 2010 at 10:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Tree

    If you had the first vaccine without problems, I wouldn't worry about side-effects from the second and third. If you feel the vaccine is right for you, don't listen to the naysayers. If you had a problem, there is a program in place for reporting adverse events from vaccines, but it's VERY unlikely. Get the vaccines while you are still young, just in case, and continue to be VERY choosy with your sexual partners.

    STDs are serious and often have no symptoms. Many people who have one don't know it.

    October 11, 2010 at 11:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Megan

      Hey Anna, that story surprises me given it seems like you have quite the stick up your rear end. Every day people catch these things, not just "sluts". Grow up, brat.

      October 11, 2010 at 14:13 | Report abuse |
    • Nicole

      Hey Anna...that's great that you are 17 and are not concerned about catching this virus; however, not everyone that catches it is a slut. I was dating a guy for several years and ended up catching it. This is a virus that you can catch WITHOUT actually doing the deed. It's rude and shows your immaturity that you would think that every person who has this virus is a slut. True, abstinence is the only way to keep from getting it, but in all truthfulness, most people your age are already doing it. So quit being so judgmental.

      October 11, 2010 at 14:22 | Report abuse |
    • Amy

      Anna, wow a virgin at 17. Give yourself a pat on the back there. But what about 20? 25? 30? If you're really going to wait for marriage, good for you, but you have to understand that that is rare. You shouldn't be so disrespectful of other people's decisions, especially considering how common it is to have sex with more than one partner in a person's lifetime.

      October 11, 2010 at 14:28 | Report abuse |
    • Jennifer

      Hey Anna – I waited until I was married but still got HPV. Why? Well, I wasn't his first so he got tested for everything before the big day – all clear – but, unfortunately, nobody paid any attention to that "little bump" he had until it was too late and I was infected too. So sorry – I wasn't a "slut" but still caught something anyway. You might want to try being a little less judgemental and being happy with your own choices.

      October 11, 2010 at 15:11 | Report abuse |
    • tks2002

      Selectively choosing sexual partners is the ideal, but if you are ever (god forbid) sexually assaulted, genital warts and possibly cervical cancer seem like terrible ways to keep that memory alive.

      October 11, 2010 at 15:24 | Report abuse |
    • add

      Anna, how will you be sure that you will not contract the disease several years from now when you do decide to have sex. Even if you wait till marriage, your husband may be a carrier and he (and you, for that matter) may not know it. In fact, because most people in the US are probably carriers at some point during their lifetime, the probability that this will happen is pretty high. It saddens me that you think this way. This kind of attitude is one of the primary reasons young people do not get tested for STDs and wind up spreading them.

      October 11, 2010 at 15:27 | Report abuse |
    • Jay

      I'm more than willing to bet that "Anna" isn't at all who she says she is. It's much more likely that this is some religious conservative posing as this fictitious "Anna". I'm sure most who have read it have thought the same. Have a wonderful day everyone, full of decisions made of your own accord and never let anyone judge you. If they only knew how little everyone else cares about their judgmental opinion and how it makes them look..... 🙂

      October 11, 2010 at 16:52 | Report abuse |
    • Kirk

      Both my wife and I waiting until marriage. You can choose to believe it or not but its a fact. I am glad we did 🙂

      October 12, 2010 at 18:26 | Report abuse |
  4. Worried Mom

    Just googled it thanks for the ref

    October 11, 2010 at 12:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Tala

    HPV is just the newest scam by drug companies. It is not something to worry about. Gardasil is poison. Research to see how its all a ruse.

    October 11, 2010 at 13:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ituri

      People like you are the same that say AIDs was created by the government to kill off minorities. Absurd, all the way through. Keep your conspiracies to yourself, the rest of us are tired of hearing such nonsense.

      October 11, 2010 at 22:51 | Report abuse |
    • Ituri is an idiot

      It must be hard to breathe with your head in the sand all day.

      October 12, 2010 at 18:17 | Report abuse |
    • From atltanta

      The HPV vaccine is the ONLY vaccine that fights against Cancer and PREVENTS it. Those of you crying out against it seem against women's health. Men carry HPV WITHOUT symptoms, so even if a woman marries him as a virgin, she can get this STD if he had another partner. Why should she suffer for him "sin?" Oh yeah, she's a woman and someone has to suffer the consequence. Sorry people, HPV can be a death sentence for women ONLY...so vaccinate away!

      October 12, 2010 at 08:31 | Report abuse |
  6. Sarah

    %0.00025 of those recieved had life altering side effects, which very well may not be because of the vaccine at all. I had the series and i'm perfectly healthy. I'm going to do everything in my power to stay healthy.
    I also recieved the MMR and i'm not autistic (shocking), nut jobs that don't believe in vaccinations need to think of the betterment of this country, not if you think it's a hoax or not.
    @Anna that's great that you want to practice abstinence, but when you decide to have sex, it only takes one guy. One guy to give you an STD, one guy to get you pregnant and one guy to give you AIDS. You can have all the self respect in the world, but it only takes one guy to lie and said your his first and ruin your entire life. Be prepared, not everyone is as innocent as they let on.

    October 11, 2010 at 13:52 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Julia

      Yay, thanks Sarah for the intelligent and sensible reply!

      I too have had all the shots. I too have had MMR and just about everything else, other than chicken pox, as I actually caught that prior to the vaccine and, you know what, had horrible, itching blisters all over my skin for nearly a month.

      There is a risk in doing anything. That said, the risk of not being vaccinated >>> the risk of a vaccine.

      And those who let fear of needles/incredibly remote chances deter you from getting one? Thanks for hurting the rest of us! Vaccines protect not just you, but every other person you come into contact with.

      And, yeah @Anna – you may live a perfectly virtuous life where you never so much as kiss a man who is not your husband. But unless you intend to never have sex ever, you risk getting HPV. Why? Because your future husband may have made it to third base with a woman who was carrying HPV and never knew it, contracted it (and never known it), and given it to you. Something like 60% of adult Americans either have or have had HPV at one point as it's really common and generally you never notice it. It's just that a few are unlucky enough to get it and then develop cervical cancer or genital warts. It sucks for them. A lot. So unless you intend to become a nun, do yourself (and your future husband, and any other future partners you might have) and get the vaccine. It's three little needle pricks. It really is that easy!

      October 11, 2010 at 14:45 | Report abuse |
    • Um

      DO NOT LISTEN TO SARAH! She works for the medical community and is PAID to endorse vaccines. I have seen numerous comments from this user.

      Oh and p,s: Good job bashing a young women who has more decency in her little pinky than your whole body. Not all of us are sluts like you are Sarah. Nasty.

      October 12, 2010 at 18:23 | Report abuse |
  7. Whoops

    HPV vaccine should be given to anyone who wants one along with the flu shot. There is no way to even tell you have it most of the time and they don't check you for it on regular STD screenings so no wonder why it is so widespread. I devolped warts a few years ago and its not really that big of a deal. Symptoms other then the warts themselves are not really noticable. You can get them removed but the bad part is that they can come back and you have to wear condoms 100 percent of the time(lame) . I am most definitly not a player and or even had/have sex on the regular. So it is very easy to catch.

    October 11, 2010 at 15:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • SeanNJ

      For men, there is virtually no way of knowing if you have HPV.

      1) The majority of men are asymptomatic.
      2) There is no FDA approved test to detect HPV in men.

      October 11, 2010 at 16:28 | Report abuse |
  8. Curt99

    If you want to remain healthy better to avoid all vaccines. Big Pharma lies about both effectiveness and safety in order to make money. If you ever want grandchildren who can actually think and dont have autism, take a pass on the flu shot and the hpv shot and any other shot they may offer. You will be glad you did.

    October 11, 2010 at 16:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ituri

      There is no link whatsoever from vaccines to autism, as you insinuate. Every major country has done major studies on the supposed link, and found it lacking, completely baseless. In fact, autism in control groups is marginally HIGHER in non-vaccinated groups than in vaccinated groups. Telling people to avoid LIFE SAVING vaccines (such as the flu, which confirmably kills 10's of thousands of people annually) is irresponsible and ridiculous, and you should be ashamed for suggesting such things.

      October 11, 2010 at 22:40 | Report abuse |
    • From atltanta

      A neighbor suggested I was abusive for giving our children vaccinations since "the MMR was to blame for autism." Turns out my vaccinated children, all three, don't have autism while her unvaccinated son was diagnosed with severe autism. Karma got her in the butt.

      October 12, 2010 at 08:24 | Report abuse |
    • Americans are Dumb Sheep

      I agree. This vaccine is a total scam. But, let these idiots swallow them, stick themselves until they die. I could give a flying turd. I bet they believe their precious government loves them to pieces! Morons.

      October 12, 2010 at 18:31 | Report abuse |
  9. Becky

    I stopped after the first shot because I passed out from standing up after lying down for ten minutes. My mom is a vet and has never had anything like that happen to the animals she's given shots to, so she doesn't approve and I have to agree. I know some people have done just fine with the shots, but the first one hurt extremely bad and I'm glad I didn't get the last two. There were three girls from my school who started having seizures after receiving these shots as well... kinda freaked me out a little.

    October 11, 2010 at 17:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • From atltanta

      It sounds like psychosomatic issues along with a load of garbage, Becky.

      October 12, 2010 at 08:26 | Report abuse |
  10. Regret

    I had the vaccine and I really regret getting it! Ever since I received it I have had seizures. My sister got the vaccine and has had abnormal pap smears ever since.

    October 11, 2010 at 18:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ituri

      The rates of seizures in this vaccine, or any other, are incredibly low. Such risks are not allowable for public distribution, if they were any higher than the norm. So many people claiming seizures after the vaccine is no better than so many parents attributing autism to vaccines. There is little evidence you can provide these seizures are real, that they were caused by the vaccine, or that they didn't exist before the vaccine was had. As for your sisters pap smears, women have "abnormal" results all the time, both for nothing and for real medical reasons. Something could have developed before your sister ever had the vaccine, yet you attribute it to that because you assume a correlation.

      October 11, 2010 at 22:45 | Report abuse |
    • LS

      How do you know that the vaccine caused the seizures or the abnormal results? As a doctor every told you that? or even suggested that? Seizures are somewhat common and abnormal pap smear results are also common, particularly for young women. Perhaps something else caused the seizures? I wouldn't necessary thing the 2 are related, unless you had seizures right after receiving each does of the vaccine.

      October 12, 2010 at 00:40 | Report abuse |
  11. Ryan

    I am a male

    I work in pharma

    I had this vaccine

    -without demonstrating outward signs, there is no way to know as a male, you carry it.

    However males can spread the disease and it can cause warts in both sexes, and more dangerous cancer in women. It is considered off-label and will be approved by the FDA. Peace of mind for me, not giving someone cancer, even unknowingly, was well worth paying 450 for the vaccine.

    October 11, 2010 at 18:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. suz

    Just to let you all know, HPV will typically show up as an adnormality in your pap smear not too long after being infected. If you are getting paps yearly (like you should), you will know if you are carrying it. Also, if you do not have multiple partners, it's pretty easy to know who gave it too you. I was infected by a jerk who never told me he had it and it turned into a very fast moving cervical cancer and almost killed me. If a guy is carrying it, he will know he has it when his girlfriend has a adnormal pap and is then tested for the virus. Guaranteed, the girlfriend will let him know. The boyfriend who infected me KNEW he carried it because his last girlfriend contracted it while dating him too. He admitted it when I came down with it. Also, I don't see why guys can't be tested the same way as women are for it. Thankfully alot of people can shed the virus and your body basically gets rid of it like mine finally did, although I had to have a hysterectomy before it did to save myself. It was a very dangerous strain he gave me and there are quite a few different strains of it. I never got warts or any signs at all until it was almost too late. Watch yourself people and DON'T just believe someone because they tell you they have been tested for everything and are clear. There are nasty people out there that just don't care who they infect and hurt or kill.

    October 12, 2010 at 07:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. VaccineHaveAdverseEffects

    Vaccination should be a decision based on risk benefit. The issue is that a lot of doctors downplay the risks of adverse events. I cannot tell you how many doctors throughout the country administer vaccines when a child has an active infection. Did you know that was a countraindication? No. Of course not. Because we are not informed. Adverse events are indeed rare but they exist and everyone patients should be informed.

    October 12, 2010 at 16:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Anon

      Yes, there are minute/near negligible risks like Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare disorder (higher risk for infleunza vaccine) – but overall, all vaccines have a very low risk of GBS. Non-vaccine GBS is rare, so vaccine-related GBS is even rarer! You're more likely to catch the diseases than develop GBS from a vaccine.

      March 1, 2019 at 01:35 | Report abuse |
  14. Teal

    Funny how you guy jump down Anna's throat when she is actually showing you up for your immoral behaviours. I was not surpised at all. I watched this comment and admire her for remaining a virgin and respecting her body. I KNEW that a bunch of people would be ashamed and jump down her throat over it! So predictable!

    October 12, 2010 at 18:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Megan

      If by 'respect' you mean "sexually oppressed". One's sexual behavior doesn't say anything about their character and its only a way for otherwise weak-minded people like yourself to feel better than others. Find something better to do with your time.

      October 13, 2010 at 20:48 | Report abuse |
    • Anon

      As a religious person who believes that extramartial sex is a sin, I advise everyone to get the HPV vaccine.

      – People may slip up and regret their actions.
      – People may be sexually assaulted/raped.
      – People may acquire HPV non-sexually, though less commonly.
      – Peoples' future partner may have HPV for any reason.

      Solution: Immunize. Let's make HPV a thing of the past.

      March 1, 2019 at 01:37 | Report abuse |
  15. Janet

    I'm 48 years old. Do you advise me to take the HPV vaccines?

    October 14, 2010 at 03:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Anon

      Yes – get Gardasil-9. Even if you are not a virgin or are infected, this can help prevent strains you may not have caught (and research suggests that it may help treat existing infections – no harm in trying).

      March 1, 2019 at 01:33 | Report abuse |
  16. Jenna

    I dont think the risk of the vaccine is worth it. Check out truthaboutgardasil.org hey hae lots of information!

    October 14, 2010 at 13:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Jp Lady

    For three days now my right lower lip has been quivering. It came on suddenly and now it's almost constant. Am 50 yrs old and take meds for BP, Acid Reflux Disease.
    What could be causing this lip quivering/trembling? I thought it would go away on it's own, but now am starting to worry.

    October 20, 2010 at 09:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Brian

    My girlfriend had the gardasil vaccine just before we started dating and ever since she got the third shot her health has declined. She went from being a college athlete to diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Not everyone who gets the vaccine has this result but I do not think it is worth the risk. Recently it has come out that the FDA covered up many of the possible problems associated with the vaccine. And there is no long term studies since it has only been given to the public since 2006. I would advise not getting it and trying to be responsible about your health and what you put in your body.

    October 22, 2010 at 02:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Darlene

    If u take the first dose for hpv and don't take the second dose can a persons pap smear come out abnormal because they didn't take the second dosage

    November 11, 2010 at 18:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Darlene

    If a person got the first dose for hpv and don't get the second can that persons pap smear come out abnormal with hpv because they didn't take the second dosage

    November 11, 2010 at 18:04 | Report abuse | Reply
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  22. Name*Griselda Marmolejo

    Hi my daughter had her first shot on November 20, 2013, second shot on January 17, 2014. When is her 3rd shot due? Not sure,

    January 17, 2014 at 19:33 | Report abuse | Reply
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    March 14, 2015 at 04:45 | Report abuse | Reply
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  26. carolet@knology.net

    My 18 year old granddaughter received the first and second injections but when she went for the third injection at the correct time of injection this month (March 2017), she was given a prescription by the GYN doctor, to go to the Pharmacy to get the injection, we tried all chain and two private pharmacies for this and each one informed us that it was not available. No longer could they order it some said they didn't order this and they did not give this injection and finally we found out no one could order it because they do not make it anymore. Our GYN was at a loss as to what to do either, could not give us any information of what we should do about taking the new one that is coming on the market soon (at an enormous fee) and insurance is not covering it until some time in the future. My question is why was the original not being available and why was the doctor not informed until WE informed him. Now what happens to her with only two and the need of the third one? What will happen when the new Gardasil becomes available and will it hurt her to take the new ones (3 injections) with the older Gardasil still in her body... What do we do now? Please post information.

    March 21, 2017 at 17:21 | Report abuse | Reply
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    I was told the hpv shot was required to get into school???????

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  29. Wee

    I receive 2 doses of gardasil, the second dose was july 2016 and i wasnt able to get the 3rd dose. Can i still get a shot of 3rd dose even 2 years had already pass?

    October 25, 2018 at 05:51 | Report abuse | Reply
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  32. Name*cindy

    My grandchildren have moved alot in the last 8 years. We think we have all there records, but not sure because none of the records are showing they had the HPV vaccine. Does anyone know if it would be unsafe to have them vaccinated again if they already had them

    January 15, 2019 at 10:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Anon

      Cindy, it is perfectly safe to repeat the vaccines and is recommended since there is a new HPV vaccine that protects against nine strains of the virus. Get them (both the boys and girls) vaccinated for Gardasil-9 whether or not they have previously been vaccinated. They will need multiple doses at specific intervals. It is integral before they become sexually active (HPV can also be spread nonsexually – like plantar wart HPV strains).

      March 1, 2019 at 01:32 | Report abuse |
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    what happens if you accidentally inject gardasil 9 instead of gardasil 4 on your second shot

    May 23, 2019 at 02:27 | Report abuse | Reply
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