Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccine

What is HPV?

Genital human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted virus in the United States. More than half of sexually active men and women are infected with HPV at some time in their lives. Most HPV infections don't cause any symptoms, and go away on their own. But HPV can cause cervical cancer in women. Cervical cancer is the 2nd leading cause of cancer deaths among women worldwide. In the United States, about 10,000 women get cervical cancer every year. HPV is also associated with several less common cancers, such as vaginal and vulvar cancers in women and other types of cancer in both men and women. It can also cause genital warts and warts in the throat. There is no cure for HPV infection, but some of the problems it causes can be treated.

What is the HPV vaccine?

GARDASIL is a human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine that helps protect against 4 types of HPV. In girls and young women, GARDASIL helps protect against 2 types of HPV that cause about 75% of cervical cancer cases, and 2 more types that cause 90% of genital warts cases. In boys and young men GARDASIL helps protect against 90% of genital warts cases.

HPV is important because it can help protect against most cases of cervical cancer in females when it is given before a person is exposed to the virus. The HPV vaccine may be given to both males and females. GARDASIL is a three-dose series vaccine administered over six months. The second and third doses should be given at two and six months (respectively) after the first dose. The HPV vaccine may be given at the same time as other vaccines.

Who should get the HPV vaccine?

The vaccine is routinely recommended for girls 11-12 years of age. It is important for girls to get the HPV vaccine before their first sexual contact, because they have not yet been exposed to HPV. The vaccine is also recommended for girls and women 13-26 years of age who did not receive all 3 doses when they were younger. While this vaccine is not routinely recommended for males, males 11-26 years of age may get this vaccine to prevent genital warts. As with females, it is best to be vaccinated before the first sexual contact.

Who should not get the HPV vaccine?

The vaccine is not recommended for anyone who:

  • Has had an allergic reaction to yeast, to a prior dose, or to any GARDASIL® vaccine component
  • Is currently taking immunosuppressant therapy or is immunocompromised
  • Has a moderate illness with fever greater than 100° F
  • Is currently pregnant or planning pregnancy during the course of treatment
  • Has a bleeding disorder in which injections are contraindicated

What are the side effects of the GARDASIL HPV vaccine?

Mild-to-moderate problems:

  • Soreness, redness, or swelling where the shot was given
  • Fever and itching at the injection site

Severe problems (rare) may include serious allergic reactions, with symptoms including:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Hives
  • Pale skin
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Dizziness

Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help ease pain and reduce fever.

The HPV vaccine is available at:

Healthcare Clinic for patients aged 11-26.1
Walgreens Pharmacy. Ages vary by state.

Walk in or schedule an appointment at the location nearest you ›

If you believe you have a medical emergency,  please call 911.

Call the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at 800-232-4636 or visit the CDC website, at cdc.gov/vaccines, for more vaccine information.


Atkinson W, Hamborsky J, McIntyre L, Wolfe S, eds. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases. 10th ed. Washington, DC: Public Health Foundation, 2007.

Vaccine Information Statement: HPV (Human Papillomavirus) Vaccine-Gardasil® Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). February 22, 2012. www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/vis/downloads/vis-hpv-gardasil.pdf. Accessed February 2013.

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This publication should be used for general educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Although it is intended to be accurate, neither Walgreen Co., its subsidiaries or affiliates, nor any other party assumes liability for loss or damage due to reliance on this publication.

Vaccine subject to availability. Age, state, and health related restrictions apply.