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New study affirms HPV quadrivalent vaccine is safe for pregnant women

Research published in Obstetrics & Gynecology shows HPV vaccine during pregnancy does not increase risk of miscarriage

June 12, 2018

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – A new study of 2,800 women confirms the quadrivalent vaccine against the human papilloma virus (HPV) does not increase the chances of miscarriage. The vaccine is currently recommended for girls and women, ages 9 to 26. It’s not recommended for women who are known to be pregnant. Still, sometimes women mistakenly receive the vaccine around the time of pregnancy.

Led by Elyse Kharbanda, MD, MPH, senior investigator at HealthPartners Institute, the study evaluated data on pregnancies and HPV vaccine exposures from seven health systems. The participating health systems are part of the Vaccine Safety Datalink, which is funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to monitor vaccine safety.

“Fears about the HPV vaccine are far-ranging,” Kharbanda said. “Some people believe the vaccine affects current or future fertility.”

Researchers looked at rates of miscarriage among women who received the quadrivalent HPV vaccine during or just before pregnancy. They compared this to rates of miscarriage among women who had the vaccine 16 to 22 weeks prior to pregnancy. Rates of miscarriage did not differ significantly by group.

“We found no evidence that HPV vaccination during or around the time of pregnancy increased a woman’s risk of miscarriage,” Kharbanda said. “The HPV vaccine is safe and effective. If the vaccine is given around the time of pregnancy, patients should not worry. Instead clinicians should provide reassurance to them.”

Vaccinating Against Cancer

HPV causes more than 41,000 cases of cancer each year, according to the CDC. These include cervical, throat, anal and other types of cancer. By vaccinating against HPV, doctors are able to prevent these cancers. The quadrivalent vaccine was approved in 2006 for girls and women, ages 9 to 26. It’s now also recommended for boys and men, ages 12 to 21.

Kharbanda and colleagues in the Vaccine Safety Datalink will soon begin studying a newer version of the HPV vaccine. It protects against nine strains of the disease. Manufacturer data presented to the Food and Drug Administration during clinical trials suggests the newer version could have a slightly higher risk of miscarriage in pregnant women. This makes future research critically important.

But most importantly, Kharbanda added, data shows the newer version could prevent 90 percent of cervical cancers worldwide, indicating clear benefits to routine vaccination.

About HealthPartners Institute

HealthPartners Institute is part of HealthPartners, the largest consumer-governed, non-profit health care organization in the nation with a mission to improve health and well-being in partnership with members, patients and the community. HealthPartners Institute supports this mission through research, education and practice. The Institute annually conducts 400+ research studies, provides continuing medical education to 24,000 health professionals and trains 575 medical residents and fellows and 1,200 medical and advanced practice students. The Institute also supports clinical quality improvement and patient education programs. Its integration with HealthPartners’ hospitals, clinics and health plan strengthens the Institute’s ability to discover and develop evidence-based solutions and translate them into practice. Based in Minneapolis, the Institute’s work impacts care, health and well-being across the region and nation as well as internationally. For more information, visit

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