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Human papillomavirus (HPV9) vaccine

Date last reviewed: 
Tuesday, Jun 11, 2024
The HPV vaccine is cancer prevention. All preteens/teens need the HPV vaccine so they are protected against certain cancers later in life. Some adults should get the vaccine too.

Disease it protects against

The HPV9 vaccine protects against 9 types of HPV (human papillomavirus). It protects against:
  • 7 types of HPV that cause about 90 percent of cervical cancers and several other cancers such as cancers of the vagina, vulva, anus, penis, mouth and throat.
  • 2 types of HPV that cause about 90 percent of cases of genital warts. 
HPV is a common infection that can cause a variety of cancers, no matter your sex, gender, or sexual orientation. Learn more about HPV.

Early protection works best!

The HPV vaccine is recommended sooner rather than later so that your child is protected long before they ever have contact with the virus. 

Who should get the vaccine

Grade 6 students
The HPV vaccine is offered for free to all students in grade 6. Most children in grade 6 need 2 doses of the vaccine to be protected. Children with a weakened immune system need 3 doses of the vaccine.
Children and teens who missed the vaccine in grade 6
Those who miss getting the vaccine in grade 6 remain eligible for the free vaccine as long as:
  • they get their first dose before they turn 19, and
  • their last dose before they turn 26. 
The exception to this is males born January-June 2005 have until June 30, 2024 to get their first dose. 
Those who miss getting the HPV vaccine in grade 6 can contact their immunization provider (i.e. local health unit, community health centre, health care provider, pharmacy) to make an appointment to get vaccinated.
Children who get their first dose before their 15th birthday need 2 doses of the vaccine at least 6 months apart. People who get their first dose after their 15th birthday and those with a weakened immune system need 3 doses.
Some adults
The HPV vaccine is recommended and free for the following adults:
  • Males 19-26 years of age who are:
  • Men who have sex with men (including those who are not yet sexually active and are questioning their sexual orientation).
  • Street involved.
  • Two-Spirit, transgender, and non-binary people 19-26 years of age.
The vaccine is recommended, but not free (unless mentioned above), for:
  • Women 19-45 years of age.
  • Males 19-26 years of age.
  • Males 27 years of age and older who have sex with men.

If you're not listed above and want to get the HPV vaccine, talk to your health care provider about your risk of getting an HPV infection and whether the vaccine would be right for you.

Those not eligible for the free vaccine can buy it at most pharmacies, travel clinics, and some sexual health clinics. Some health insurance plans cover the cost of the HPV vaccine. Check with your insurance provider to find out if your plan does.
Adults need 3 doses of the vaccine.
People living with HIV
The vaccine is recommended and free for people 9-26 years of age who are living with HIV and have not received a complete series of the vaccine.

Why the vaccine is given in grade 6

The HPV vaccine is routinely given in grade 6 because: 
  • The vaccine works better at a younger age. Preteens make more antibodies after getting the vaccine than older teens or adults. This provides long-lasting protection against HPV.
  • The vaccine works best when it is given before being exposed to the virus.
  • Children in grade 6 only need 2 doses of the vaccine to be protected, while those 15 years and older (and those with a weakened immune system) need 3 doses.

Did you know?

More than 9 of every 10 cases of cervical cancer are caused by HPV. Almost all cervical cancer can be prevented by HPV vaccination.

How well the vaccine works

The HPV vaccine works very well. When given at a young age, the HPV vaccine is nearly 100% effective at preventing infection of the most common types of HPV that can cause cervical cancer, other cancers, and genital warts.
Studies in Canada and other countries with HPV vaccine programs have shown that the vaccine prevents:
  • Cancer-causing HPV infections.
  • Cervical pre-cancers.
  • Genital warts.
When you or your child get immunized, you help protect others as well. People who are immunized are less likely to catch a preventable disease and spread it to others. 


The HPV vaccine is safe. Vaccines are approved for use in Canada only if they meet very strict standards for safety and effectiveness. The HPV vaccine was well studied in clinical trials. It was only approved for use in Canada after the studies showed it was safe and effective. Since approval, hundreds of millions of doses of HPV vaccines have been given worldwide, and vaccine safety monitoring has continued to show that the HPV vaccine is safe.
There is no evidence that HPV vaccines cause infertility, autoimmune diseases, or other health problems.

The HPV vaccine is very safe.

Hundreds of millions of doses of the HPV vaccine have been given safely worldwide. Over 15 years of safety monitoring show that the HPV vaccine is very safe and effective.

Side effects

Many people have no side effects from vaccines. For those that do, they are usually mild and go away on their own within a few days. Serious side effects are very rare.
Side effects of the HPV vaccine 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.
It is important to stay in the clinic for 15 minutes after getting any vaccine because there is an extremely rare chance of a life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. If anaphylaxis happens, you will be given medicine to treat the symptoms.
Let your immunization provider/clinic or health care provider know if you or your child have any serious or unexpected side effects after immunization.

How to manage side effects

For information on how to manage side effects, view the immunization aftercare sheets below.

Who should not get the vaccine

  • Speak with your health care provider if you or your child has had a life-threatening reaction to a previous dose of the HPV vaccine or any part of the vaccine, including yeast.
  • People who are pregnant should not get the vaccine.
  • There is no need to delay getting immunized because of a cold or other mild illness, but if you have concerns, speak with your health care provider.

What if I am already sexually active?

The HPV vaccine works best when given before any sexual activity and exposure to HPV. But, if you are already sexually active, you could still benefit from HPV vaccination. If you have 1 type of HPV, the vaccine can protect you from other types you do not have.
The HPV vaccine prevents new HPV infections but does not treat existing HPV infections or diseases.

Cervical screening

It is important for people who have a cervix to follow current BC cervical screening guidelines because the HPV vaccine protects against most but not all types of HPV that cause cervical cancer.

Other vaccines that protect against HPV

Cervarix (HPV2) is also approved for use in Canada.This vaccine protects against 2 types of HPV and is not free. A small amount of this vaccine is available for purchase in BC from select pharmacies. This vaccine costs about $100 per dose. Cervarix is approved for use in females only. 
Both the HPV2 and HPV9 vaccines protect against the 2 types of HPV that cause most HPV cancers. These types cause about 70% of cases of cervical cancer and 80% of cases of anal cancer. The HPV9 vaccine protects against 5 additional HPV types 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.

HPV quick facts

What is HPV?
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). About 3 out of 4 sexually active people who are unimmunized will get HPV at some time. Anyone who has any kind of oral, vaginal, or anal sexual 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. Males who have sex with males are also at higher risk of HPV infection.
How does HPV spread?
HPV spreads by skin-to-skin contact. This can be during oral, vaginal or anal sex or during any other sexual activity in which skin-to-skin contact takes place.
What are the symptoms?
Most people infected with HPV do not show any signs or symptoms and can pass the virus on to others without even knowing it.
Genital warts are a symptom of HPV infection. Genital warts are flat or cauliflower-like bumps that are usually painless, may be itchy, and sometimes bleed. They can be found in the groin, genitals, buttocks and inside the vagina or anus. They are rarely found in the mouth.
What are the risks?
Most of the time, an HPV infection will clear on its own. For some people, HPV will not go away and cells infected with the virus can become precancerous or cancerous over time.
Every year in B.C. approximately:
  • 210 people will get cervical cancer and 55 will die from the disease.
  • 6,000 people will develop high risk changes to the cervix which are precancerous.
  • 135 people will get anal cancer and 20 will die from the disease.
  • 5,500 people will develop genital warts.


Cancer Prevention

Video courtesy of BC Cancer. 

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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.