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HPV vaccine



The HPV vaccine protects against infection by certain strains of the human papilloma virus (HPV) that can cause cervical cancer and genital warts.

HPV spreads mostly through sexual contact. Almost all cervical cancers are caused by HPV. HPV vaccination is expected to prevent about 70% of cervical cancer cases.

See also:

Alternative Names

Vaccine - HPV; Immunization - HPV; Gardasil; Cervarix; Vaccine to prevent cervical cancer


HPV is a common virus that is spread through sexual intercourse. There are many different types of HPV, and many do not cause problems. However, certain types of HPV can lead to cervical cancer (and genital warts).

Two vaccines are currently available to prevent cervical cancer in girls and young women. These vaccines do not treat cervical cancer, however.

The vaccines are called Gardasil and Cervarix.

  • Both of the vaccines protect against HPV-16 and HPV-18, the two types of HPV that cause most cases of cervical cancer.
  • Gardasil also protects against HPV-6 and HPV-11, which cause most cases of genital warts.
  • The vaccines do not protect against all types of cervical cancer-causing HPV.


Gardasil is approved for:

  • Females age 9-26 to protect against cervical cancer and prevent genital warts
  • Males age 9 - 26 to prevent genital warts

Cervarix is approved for:

  • Females age 10 – 26 to help protect against cervical cancer
  • Cervarix does not protect against genital warts
  • Cervarix has not been approved for use in boys or men


Routine HPV immunization is recommended for 11- and 12-year-old girls. The vaccine is given in 3 shots over a 6-month period. (The second and third doses are given 2 and 6 months after the first dose.)

One brand of vaccine can be substituted for another in the 3-dose series. The HPV vaccine can be given at the same time as other vaccines.

Girls as young as 9 can receive the vaccine if their doctor recommends it.

Girls and women ages 13 - 26 who have not been previously immunized or who have not completed the full vaccine series should get vaccinated to catch up on missed doses. (Note: Some groups do not recommend women between 19 and 26 receive catch-up doses of this vaccine. Talk with your provider if you are this age group.)

Routine use of the HPV vaccine in boys and men is not recommended. However, a health care provider may still decide to use it on a specific patient.

Pregnant women should not receive this vaccine.


The most common side effects are fainting, dizziness, nausea, headache, and skin reactions at the site where the shot was given.


The HPV vaccine does not protect against all types of HPV that lead to cervical cancer. Girls and women should still receive regular screening (Pap tests) to look for any early signs of cervical cancer. See: Pap smear

The HPV vaccine does not protect against other sexually transmitted infections.


  • You aren't sure whether you or your child should receive the HPV vaccine
  • You or your child develops complications or severe symptoms after getting an HPV vaccine
  • You have other questions or concerns about the HPV vaccine

Kahn JA. HPV vaccination for the prevention of cervical intraepithelial neoplasia. N Engl J Med. 2009 Jul 16;361(3):271-8.

Slade BA, Leidel L, Vellozzi C, Woo EJ, Hua W, Sutherland A, et al. Postlicensure safety surveillance for quadrivalent human papillomavirus recombinant vaccine. JAMA. 2009 Aug 19;302(7):750-7.

Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. Recommended adult immunization schedule: United States, 2009. Ann Intern Med. January 6, 2009;150(1):40-4.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Recommended adult immunization schedule -- United States, 2009. MMWR Recomm Rep. January 9, 2009;57(53):Q-1-4.

Related Taxonomy

Review Date: 1/18/2010
Reviewed By: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc., and Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Redmond, Washington; Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine.
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