HPV vaccine

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What is HPV?

  • HPV stands for human papillomavirus. It is a common virus that can lead to certain types of cancer. It can also cause genital warts. 
  • HPV spreads through intimate skin-to-skin contact. You can get HPV by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone with the virus, even if they don't have signs or symptoms. Sexual intercourse is not necessary to get infected. 
  • About 3 out of 4 unvaccinated sexually active people will get HPV at some point in their lives. 
  • Most often, an HPV infection will clear on its own. But sometimes it doesn't and it can cause cancer over time.
  • HPV infections can cause cancers of the cervix, anus, mouth and throat, vagina, vulva, and penis.
You can prevent HPV cancers and genital warts with the HPV vaccine.

When should my child get the HPV vaccine?

Your child should get the HPV vaccine in grade 6.
Your child will be offered the HPV9 vaccine (GARDASIL®9). This vaccine protects against 9 types of HPV. 
  • It protects against 7 types of HPV that cause about 90 percent of cervical cancers and several other cancers, such as cancers of the anus, mouth and throat, vagina, vulva, and penis.
  • It also protects against 2 types of HPV that cause about 90 percent of cases of genital warts. 

How many doses of the HPV vaccine does my child need?

  • Children who get the vaccine in grade 6 need 2 doses at least 6 months apart. 
  • Children who start the HPV vaccine series on or after their 15th birthday need 3 doses over 6 months.

Why does my child need the vaccine at such a young age?

The vaccine works best when given at a young age.  
  • Preteens produce more antibodies after HPV vaccination than older teens. This means they will be better protected in the future. 
  • The vaccine works best when people get it before they are sexually active and come into contact with HPV. 
There is no evidence that HPV vaccination encourages sexual activity.
When you vaccinate your child in grade 6, you protect them from certain cancers later in life. 

Handout: Protect your child from cancer with the HPV vaccine. 

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Teens, young adults, and some others should get vaccinated too 

If your child missed getting the vaccine in grade 6, they should still get it as soon as possible. It's only free for most people before they turn 19. 
The HPV9 vaccine is also recommended and free for:
  • HIV-positive people 9-26 years of age 
  • Transgender people 9-26 years of age
  • Cisgender* males 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
  • Cisgender males 9 to 18 years of age in the care of the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD)
  • Cisgender males in youth custody services centres
  • Two-Spirit, transgender, and non-binary people 9-26 years of age
The HPV9 vaccine is recommended, but not provided free (unless noted above), for:
  • Females 19 to 45 years of age
  • Males 9-26 years of age (unless noted above)
  • Males 27 years of age and older who have sex with men 
*Cisgender refers to people who feel their gender identity matches their assigned sex at birth; non-trans.


Where to get vaccinated

  • Grade 6 children get the HPV vaccine at school clinics. 
  • Others eligible for the publicly-funded (free) HPV vaccine can get it from most pharmacies and health units. Some doctors' offices and sexual health clinics also have the vaccine. 
  • Those not eligible for the free vaccine can buy it at most pharmacies, travel clinics, and some sexual health clinics. Some health plans cover the cost of the HPV vaccine; check with your provider. 


The HPV vaccine is very safe

The HPV vaccine is very safe. More than 200 million doses of the vaccine have been given safely worldwide, and over 15 years of monitoring show that the vaccine is safe and effective. 

Possible side effects

Like any vaccine or medicine, HPV vaccines can have side effects. Common side effects of the HPV vaccine are mild and usually go away in a day or two. These can include: 
  • Pain, redness, or swelling in the arm where the vaccine was given
  • Fever
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Nausea
  • Headache or feeling tired
  • Muscle or joint pain
Serious side effects, like a severe allergic reaction, are very rare. Like all vaccines, scientists continue to monitor HPV vaccines to ensure they are safe and effective.
The benefits of HPV vaccination far outweigh the risk of potential side effects.
HPV vaccination is preventing cancer-causing infections, precancers, and genital warts 
Studies in Canada and other countries with HPV vaccine programs have shown a big decrease in HPV infections, cervical precancers, and genital warts since the HPV vaccine has been used.

More about HPV

Every year in BC, about:
  • 200 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 450,000 women will undergo Pap tests, and over 14,000 will need further follow-up. Follow-up may include more 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.


Find information on the HPV vaccine in different languages in the HealthLinkBC File: HPV Vaccines


HPV vaccine videos

Cancer Prevention

Video courtesy of BC Cancer. 


We Can Be the First


HPV: Our Family's Story

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

Date last reviewed: 
Monday, Oct 31, 2022