HPV (Human Papillomavirus)

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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 females and 4% in males.

  • The HPV9 vaccine also protects against 2 types of HPV that cause about 90% of cases of genital warts. 

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

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Who should get the HPV vaccine?

HPV9 vaccine

The HPV9 vaccine is provided free to students in grade 6.  

People 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. Most cisgender and straight males born in 2005 or earlier do not qualify for the free HPV vaccine. This is because the vaccine was added as a publicly funded vaccination for males in 2006.

The HPV9 vaccine is also provided free to:

  • 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 also recommended, but not provided free (unless mentioned above), for:

  • Females 19 to 45 years of age
  • Males 9-26 years of age (unless mentioned above)
  • Males 27 years of age and older who have sex with men 

HPV2 vaccine

The HPV2 vaccine is recommended, but not provided free, for females 9 to 45 years of age. The HPV2 vaccine is not currently approved for use in males.

Anyone who is not eligible for a free HPV vaccine can purchase it at most pharmacies and travel clinics

It is best to get immunized before becoming sexually active and coming in contact with HPV, because the vaccines prevent infection but do not clear it.


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 males caused by the two main types of HPV
  • 90% to 100% of cases of genital warts in males and females 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 an extremely rare possibility of anaphylaxis, which is a life-threatening allergic reaction. This may include hives, difficulty breathing, or swelling of the throat, tongue, or lips. The chance of true anaphylaxis is about 1 in 1 million vaccine doses. 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. Learn more about anaphylaxis on our vaccine side effects page.

It is important to always report serious or unexpected reactions to your health care provider.

Where can I learn more?

About HPV 

  • 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.

According to the CDC HPV infection is responsible for:

  • Almost ALL cases of cervical cancers
  • More than 90% of anal and cervical cancers
  • About 70% of vaginal and vulvar cancers
  • About 60% of penile cancers
  • About 60 to 70% 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. 

*Cisgender refers to people who feel their gender identity matches their assigned sex at birth; non-trans.


Date last reviewed: 
Tuesday, Aug 23, 2022