HPV (Human Papillomavirus)


This study is recruiting girls that were immunized with the HPV vaccine according to their provincial immunization schedule.  Visit www.questhpvstudy.ca to find out if you’re eligible and to learn more about the study details.  

QUEST Newsletter

HPV: Our Family's Story

Audra and her aunt Laura are strong believers in the HPV vaccine, for good reason: Gisel, Audra's mother and Laura's older sister, died from cervical cancer at only 38. 

Watch more HPV videos

About the vaccines

The HPV vaccines protect against infection from certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV) that cause genital warts and cancers of the anus, cervix, mouth and throat, penis, vagina, and vulva. There are 3 HPV vaccines:

  • Cervarix® (HPV2)
  • Gardasil® (HPV4)
  • Gardasil®9 (HPV9)

All 3 vaccines protect against 2 types of HPV that cause about 70% of cases of cervical cancer and 80% of cases of anal cancer. The HPV9 vaccine protects against 5 additional types of HPV that cause about 15% to 20% of cervical cancers and 11% of anal cancers in women and 4% in men. The HPV4 and HPV9 vaccines also protect against 2 types of HPV that cause about 90% of cases of genital warts. 

All of these vaccines are approved by Health Canada. 

Who should get the HPV vaccines? 

HPV9 vaccine program 

The HPV9 vaccine is recommended and provided free to girls in grade 6.  In September 2016, the HPV9 vaccine replaced the HPV4 vaccine which was previously provided as part of the school-based immunization program.

The HPV9 vaccine is also provided free to females who are 9 to 26 years of age who are infected with HIV.

*Starting September 2017, BC's publicly funded immunization program will include the HPV9 vaccine for grade 6 boys. Therefore all grade 6 students in BC, both female and male, will be offered the HPV9 vaccine series for free as part of the regular school-based immunization program. For more information please refer to the Ministry of Health announcement: B.C. extends free HPV coverage to boys.

HPV4 vaccine program

The HPV4 vaccine is recommended and provided free to girls and young women born in 1994 to 2004 who have not received the vaccine.  Girls and young women in this age group who missed getting the HPV4 vaccine can contact their health care provider to get immunized at no cost.

The HPV4 vaccine is also free for males who are at an increased risk for HPV infection.  This includes males:

  •  9 to 26 years of age (inclusive) who: 
    • have sex with men (including those who are not yet sexually active and are questioning their sexual orientation) 
    • are street involved 
    • are HIV positive
  • 9 to 18 years of age in the care of the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD)             
  • in youth custody services centres

Recommended but not provided free 

The HPV4 and HPV9 vaccines are recommended, but not provided free (unless mentioned above), for the following people:

  • Adult women up to 45 years of age
  • Boys and men 9-26 years of age 
  • Men 27 years of age and older who have sex with men 

The HPV2 vaccine is recommended, but not provided free, for girls and women 9 to 45 years of age. The HPV2 vaccine is not currently approved for use in boys or men. 

Those not eligible for free HPV vaccine can purchase it at most pharmacies and travel clinics and at some sexual health clinics.

It's best to get immunized before becoming sexually active and coming in contact with HPV; however, people who are sexually active may still benefit from the vaccines. The vaccines do not treat HPV infections.

What are the benefits of the HPV vaccines?

In women who have never been infected with HPV, the vaccines prevent almost 100% of cases of cervical cancer caused by the HPV types covered by the vaccines.  The HPV4 and HPV9 vaccines prevent about 78% of cases of anal cancers in men caused by 2 types of HPV. These two vaccines also prevent about 90% to 100% of cases of genital warts in men and women that are caused by 2 other types of HPV.

HPV vaccine safety 

The HPV vaccine is safe. The HPV vaccine was well studied in clinical trials and was not approved for use in Canada until the clinical studies showed that it was safe and effective.  Since the HPV vaccine was approved, more than 175 million doses have been distributed worldwide. Vaccine safety monitoring has continued to show that the HPV vaccine is safe.  You can find more information on HPV vaccine safety here

More information about HPV vaccines

For more information about HPV vaccines, including the benefits, possible reactions after the vaccine and who should not get the vaccine, see the HealthLinkBC File: Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccines

For answers to frequently asked questions about the HPV vaccine, see our HPV vaccine FAQ

About the disease  

  • HPV is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • Three out of four sexually active people will get HPV at some point in their lives
  • Anyone who has any kind of sexual activity with another person involving oral, genital or anal contact can get HPV
  • Sexual intercourse is not necessary to get infected with HPV
  • The more sexual partners you have the higher the risk of being infected with HPV
  • Men who have sex with men are at higher risk of HPV infection
  • Most people infected with HPV do not show any signs or symptoms and can pass the virus on to others without even knowing it
  • Most often an HPV infection will clear on its own but for some people, HPV will not go away and cells infected with the virus can become cancerous over time

Every year in BC, approximately:

  • 175 women will get cervical cancer and 50 will die from the disease
  • 6,000 women will develop high risk changes to the cervix which are precancerous
  • Over 500,000 women will undergo Pap tests and over 20,000 will need further follow-up which may include additional Pap tests and other procedures to stop cancer of the cervix from developing
  • 110 people will get anal cancer and 20 will die from the disease
  • 5,500 people will develop genital warts

For more information about HPV, see the HealthLink BC file on HPV infection

Pap tests

It is important for women to get regular Pap tests once they become sexually active because the HPV vaccine protects against most but not all cancers of the cervix. 

To learn more visit: BC Cancer Agency cervical cancer screening page

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