HPV (Human Papillomavirus)
What are HPV vaccines?
- The HPV vaccines protect against infection from certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV) that cause cancers of the anus, cervix, mouth and throat, penis, vagina, and vulva as well as genital warts
- There are two HPV vaccines available in Canada: Cervarix® (HPV2) and Gardasil®9 (HPV9). The HPV9 vaccine is approved for use in both males and females. The HPV2 vaccine is only approved for use in females.
Both 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 15% to 20% of cervical cancers and 11% of anal cancers in women and 4% in men.
The HPV9 vaccine also protects against 2 types of HPV that cause about 90% of cases of genital warts.
Four things you need to know about the HPV vaccine
Who should get the HPV vaccine?
The HPV9 vaccine is provided free to girls and boys in grade 6.
Boys (born in 2006 or later) and girls who did not get the vaccine in grade 6 remain eligible for the free HPV vaccine if they start their vaccine series before their 19th birthday and complete it before their 26th birthday.
The HPV9 vaccine is also provided free to:
- HIV positive individuals 9-26 years of age
- Transgender individuals 9-26 years of age
Men 9 to 26 years of age who:
- have sex with other men
- are not yet sexually active but are questioning their sexual orientation
- are street-involved
- Boys 9 to 18 years of age in the care of the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD)
- Boys and men of any age who are in youth custody services centres
The HPV9 vaccine is also recommended, but not provided free (unless mentioned above), for:
- 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.
Anyone who is not eligible for a free HPV vaccine can purchase it at most pharmacies and travel clinics.
Find information in different languages in the HealthLinkBC File: HPV Vaccines.
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 HPV9 vaccine also prevents about:
- 78% of cases of anal cancers in men caused by the two main types of HPV
- 90% to 100% of cases of genital warts in men and women caused by 2 other types of HPV
What are the side effects?
Many people have no side effects from the vaccines. For those that do, common side effects may include soreness, redness and swelling where the vaccine was given. Fever, fatigue, headache, and muscle or joint ache may also occur. As with other vaccines, fainting has occurred following HPV vaccination. Fainting can occur with any medical procedure - not just the HPV vaccine – and people recover quickly.
It is important to stay in the clinic for 15 minutes after getting any vaccine because there is a very rare possibility, between one in 100,000 and one in a million, of a life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. This may include hives, difficulty breathing, or swelling of the throat, tongue or lips. Should this reaction occur, your health care provider is prepared to treat it. Emergency treatment includes administration of epinephrine (adrenaline) and transfer by ambulance to the nearest emergency department. If symptoms develop after you leave the clinic, call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number.
It is important to always report serious or unexpected reactions to your health care provider.
Where can I learn more?
- Read the HealthLinkBC File: HPV Vaccines.
- Visit our frequently asked questions about HPV vaccines page.
- Speak to your health care provider.
- 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.
- The more sexual partners you have, the higher the risk of being infected with HPV.
- Men who have sex with men are also at higher risk of HPV infection.
- Most people infected with HPV do not show any signs or symptoms and can pass the virus onto others without even knowing it.
- Most often, an HPV infection will clear on its own. For some people, HPV will not go away, and cells infected with the virus can become cancerous over time.
HPV infection is related to:
- Almost ALL cases of cervical cancers
- About 80-90% of anal cancers
- 40% of vaginal and vulvar cancers
- 40-50% of penile cancers
- 25-35% of mouth and throat cancers (oral and oropharyngeal cancers)
- Over 90% of genital warts
We Can Be the First
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.