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 12,000 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.

HPV vaccine: Why get vaccinated?

The HPV vaccine is available for the prevention of the diseases caused by the human papillomavirus. The vaccine can be given to both females and males to prevent HPV infection. This vaccine can prevent most cases of cervical cancer in females, if it is given before exposure to the virus. In addition, it can prevent vaginal and vulvar cancer in females, and genital warts and anal cancer in both males and females. Protection from HPV vaccine is expected to be long-lasting. Vaccination is not a substitute for cervical cancer screening however, and women should still get regular Pap tests.

What is the HPV vaccine?

There are currently three HPV vaccines: GARDASIL, GARDASIL-9, and CERVARIX. Each vaccine offers coverage against a number of HPV types which are associated with various cancers and infections.

Each vaccine is a three-dose series 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?

All kids who are 11 or 12 years old should get the three dose series of HPV vaccine. Teen boys and girls who did not get the vaccine when they were younger should get it now. Young women can get HPV vaccine through age 26, and young men can get vaccinated through age 21. The vaccine is also recommended for gay and bisexual young men (or any young man who has sex with men) and also for young men with compromised immune systems (including HIV) through age 26, if they did not get HPV vaccine when they were younger.

For HPV vaccines to be effective, they should be given prior to exposure to HPV. There is no reason to wait until a teen is having sex to offer HPV vaccination to them. Preteens should receive all three doses of the HPV vaccine series long before they begin any type of sexual activity and are exposed to HPV. Also HPV vaccine produces a higher immune response in preteens than it does in older teens and young women.

Who should not get the HPV vaccine?

The vaccine is not recommended for anyone who:

  • Has ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction to any component of HPV vaccine, or to a previous dose of HPV vaccine. Tell your doctor if the person getting vaccinated has any severe allergies, including an allergy to yeast.
  • Is moderately or severely ill. People who are mildly ill when a dose of HPV vaccine is planned can still be vaccinated.
  • Is currently pregnant or planning pregnancy during the course of treatment

What are the side effects of the 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:

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.
Walgreens Pharmacy. Ages vary by state.


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 www.cdc.gov/vaccines for more vaccine information.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases. Hamborsky J, Kroger A, Wolfe S, eds. 13th ed. Washington D.C. Public Health Foundation, 2015.

Vaccine Information Statement: HPV (Human Papillomavirus) Vaccine-Gardasil® Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). May 17, 2013. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/hpv-gardasil.html. Accessed June 2015.

Vaccine Information Statement: HPV (Human Papillomavirus) Vaccine-Gardasil®-9 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). April 15, 2015. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/hpv-gardasil-9.html. Accessed June 2015.

Vaccine Information Statement: HPV (Human Papillomavirus) Vaccine-Cervarix® Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). May 3, 2011. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/hpv-cervarix.html. Accessed June 2015.

GARDASIL® [Human Papillomavirus Quadrivalent (Types 6, 11, 16, 18) Vaccine, Recombinant] Suspension for intramuscular injection. US Prescribing Information. Merck & Co., Inc. Whitehouse Station, NJ. April 2015.

GARDASIL® [Human Papillomavirus 9-valent Vaccine, Recombinant] Suspension for Intramuscular injection. US Prescribing Information. Merck & Co., Inc. Whitehouse Station, NJ. February 2015.

CERVARIX® [Human papillomavirus Bivalent (Types 6 and 18) Vaccine, Recombinant] Suspension for Intramuscular injection. US Prescribing Information. GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals. Research Triangle Park, NC.

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.

*Vaccines subject to availability. State-, age- and health-related restrictions may apply.