Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccination: What Everyone Should Know

Who Should Get HPV Vaccine?

HPV vaccination is recommended for preteen girls and boys at age 11 or 12 years. All preteens need HPV vaccination so they can be protected from HPV infections that cause cancer.

  • Teens and young adults who didn’t start or finish the HPV vaccine series also need HPV vaccination.
  • Teens and young women can get HPV vaccine until they are 27 years old and young men should get HPV vaccine until they are 22 years old.
  • Teens and young men who have sex with other men or who have weakened immune systems should get HPV vaccine until they are 27.
  • Transgender individuals should also get HPV vaccine until they are 27.

CDC recommends that 11- to 12-year-olds receive two doses of HPV vaccine at least six months apart to protect against cancers caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infections.

  • The first dose is routinely recommended at 11-12 years old.
  • The second dose of the vaccine should be administered 6 to 12 months after the first dose.
  • Vaccination with the two-dose series can be started at age 9 and through age 14.

Teens and young adults who start the series later, at ages 15 through 26 years, need three doses of HPV vaccine to protect against cancer-causing HPV infection.

  • Adolescents aged 9 through 14 years who have already received two doses of HPV vaccine less than 5 months apart, will require a third dose.
  • Three doses are recommended for people with weakened immune systems aged 9-26 years.

Who Should Not Get HPV Vaccine?

Tell your doctor about any severe allergies. Some people should not get some HPV vaccines, including:

  • People who have ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction to any ingredient of an HPV vaccine, or to a previous dose of HPV vaccine.
  • People who have an allergy to yeast (Gardasil and Gardasil 9).

HPV vaccines are safe for children who are mildly ill – for example, with a low-grade fever of less than 101 degrees, a cold, runny nose, or cough. People with a moderate or severe illness should wait until they are better.

What Types of HPV Vaccines Are There?

Three HPV vaccines have been licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

  • Gardasil (Merck) is a quadrivalent HPV vaccine (4vHPV) that protects against HPV types 6, 11, 16, and 18.
  • Gardasil-9 (Merck) is a nine-valent HPV vaccine (9vHPV) that protects against HPV types 6, 11, 16, 18, 31, 45, 52, and 58.

All three HPV vaccines protect against the two HPV types, 16 and 18, that cause most HPV cancers.

How Well Do These Vaccines Work?

HPV vaccination works extremely well. Clinical trials showed the vaccines provided close to 100% protection against precancers and, for Gardasil and Gardasil 9, genital warts.

  • Since the vaccine was first recommended in 2006, there has been a significant reduction in HPV infections.
  • Research has also shown that fewer teens and young adults are getting genital warts.
  • In other countries such as Australia where there is higher HPV vaccination coverage, HPV vaccine has also reduced the number of cases of precancers of the cervix in young women in that country.
  • Also, genital warts have decreased dramatically in young adults in Australia since the HPV vaccine was introduced.

HPV vaccine offers long-lasting protection against HPV infection and HPV disease

  • 10 years of data show that HPV vaccination provides long-lasting protection.
  • There is no evidence to suggest that HPV vaccine loses the ability to provide protection over time.

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What Are the Possible Side Effects?

Vaccines, like any medicine, can have side effects. Many people who get HPV vaccine have no side effects at all. Some people report having very mild side effects, like a sore arm from the shot.

The most common side effects of HPV vaccine are usually mild, and include:

  • Pain, redness, or swelling in the arm where the shot was given
  • Fever
  • Headache or feeling tired
  • Nausea
  • Muscle or joint pain

Brief fainting spells and related symptoms (such as jerking movements) can happen after any medical procedure, including vaccination. Sitting or lying down when getting a shot and staying in that position for about 15 minutes after a vaccination can help prevent fainting and injuries caused by falls.

On very rare occasions, severe (anaphylactic) allergic reactions may occur after vaccination. People with severe allergies to any component of a vaccine should not receive that vaccine.

Where Can I Find These Vaccines?

HPV vaccine may be available at private doctor offices, community health clinics, school-based health centers, and health departments.

If your doctor does not stock HPV vaccine, ask for a referral. If you don’t have a regular source of health care, federally funded health centers can provide services. Locate one near you.external icon

You can also contact your state health department to learn more about where to get HPV vaccine in your community.

How Do I Pay for These Vaccines?

There are several ways HPV vaccine can be paid for.

Private Health Insurance

  • All Health Insurance Marketplace plans and most other private insurance plans must cover HPV vaccine without charging a copayment or coinsurance when provided by an in-network provider.
  • This is true even for patients who have not met a yearly deductible.
  • Doses, recommended ages, and recommended populations for these vaccines vary.

Check with your insurance provider for details of coverage. Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance plans that cover children now allow parents to add or keep adult children on their health insurance policy until they turn 26 years old.

No Insurance?

If you do not currently have health insurance, visit www.HealthCare.govexternal icon to learn more about affordable health coverage options.

Vaccines for Children Program

The Vaccines for Children (VFC) Program provides vaccines to children whose parents or guardians may not be able to afford them. A child is eligible for the program if they are younger than 19 years of age and meet one of the following requirements:

  • Medicaid-eligible
  • Uninsured
  • American Indian or Alaska Native

If your child is VFC-eligible, ask if your child’s doctor is a VFC provider. For help in finding a VFC provider near you, contact your state or local health department’s VFC Program Coordinator or call CDC at 1-800-CDC-INFO (232-4636).

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Page last reviewed: November 22, 2016