What Can I Do to Reduce My Risk?

Photo of a doctor giving an HPV vaccine to a girl, while her mother looks on

The HPV vaccine protects against the types of HPV that most often cause vaginal and vulvar cancers.

The human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common virus with more than 200 different kinds or types. More than 30 of the types can be passed from one person to another through close skin-to-skin contact during sex. Almost all cervical cancers, and some vaginal, vulvar, and other cancers, are caused by HPV.

The HPV vaccine protects against the types of HPV that most often cause cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers.

  • HPV vaccination is recommended for preteens aged 11 to 12 years, but can be given starting at age 9.
  • HPV vaccine also is recommended for everyone through age 26 years, if they are not vaccinated already.
  • HPV vaccination is not recommended for everyone older than age 26 years. However, some adults age 27 through 45 years who are not already vaccinated may decide to get the HPV vaccine after speaking with their doctor about their risk for new HPV infections and the possible benefits of vaccination. HPV vaccination in this age range provides less benefit, as more people have already been exposed to HPV.

If vaccination is started before age 15, a two-dose schedule is recommended, with the doses given 6 to 12 months apart. For people who start the series after their 15th birthday, the vaccine is given in a series of three shots.

HPV vaccination prevents new HPV infections, but does not treat existing infections or diseases. This is why the HPV vaccine works best when given before any exposure to HPV. You should get screened for cervical cancer regularly, even if you received an HPV vaccine.