HPV Vaccine FAQs

HPV Vaccine FAQs

What is the HPV vaccine?

Two HPV vaccines (Gardasil and Cervarix) are approved to prevent cervical and other cancers.  Hall Health carries Gardasil, which prevents against the types of HPV that cause most cervical cancers.  It also protects you from the HPV strains that lead to most genital warts.  It is approved for cisgender women aged 11-26 and cisgender males aged 9-26.

Any sexually active person, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, is at risk for HPV.

Who should get the HPV vaccine? Everyone!

Women and girls

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended routine Gardasil vaccination for girls 11-12 years of age. The recommendation also allows for vaccination of girls beginning at nine years old as well as vaccination of girls and women 13-26 years old.

Men and boys

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Gardasil use for boys and men ages 9-26, and recommends Gardasil vaccination for boys 11-12 years.  The vaccine is also recommended for men 13 through 21 who have not been vaccinated or have not completed the series of vaccines.  Men who are immunocompromised and/or have sex with men should be vaccinated if they’re 26 or younger. For all other men, the HPV vaccines is recommended, but not considered to be of high priority, so insurance plans may not cover it.

What are the possible side effects of the HPV vaccine?

As with all vaccines, there may be some side effects with the HPV shot.  This vaccine has been well tolerated even very young girls and boys.

The most common side effects include:

  • Pain, swelling, itching, and redness at the injection site
  • Fever

Difficulty breathing due to an allergic reaction can occur however is rare.

If you or your child vas any severe or unusual symptoms after receiving the HPV vaccine, contact your health care provider immediately.

How and when is the vaccine given?

The vaccine is given in a series of three injections over a six-month period. The second and third doses should be given at two and six months (respectively) after the first dose. The HPV vaccine may be given at the same time as other vaccines.

Is the HPV vaccine effective?

This vaccine is highly effective in preventing four types of HPV in young women and men who have not been previously exposed to HPV. This vaccine targets HPV types that cause up to 70% of all cervical cancers and about 90% of genital warts. The vaccine will not treat existing HPV infections or their complications.

Is the HPV vaccine safe?

The FDA has licensed the vaccine as safe and effective. This vaccine has been tested in thousands of men and women (9 to 26 years of age) around the world. These studies have shown no serious side effects. The most common side effect is brief soreness at the injection site.

Does the vaccine contain thimerosal or mercury?

No, there is no thimerosal or mercury in the vaccine.

What are the ingredients in the HPV vaccine?

The main ingredients are purified inactive proteins that come from HPV Types 6, 11, 16 and 18.  The vaccine also contains amorphous aluminum hydroxyphosphate sulfate, sodium chloride, L-histidine, polysorbate 80, sodium borate, and water for injection.

How long does vaccine protection last? Will a booster shot be needed?

The length of vaccine protection (immunity) is usually not known when a vaccine is first introduced. So far, studies have found that vaccinated persons are protected for five years. More research is being done to find out how long protection will last, and if a booster dose of vaccine will be needed.

What is HPV?

HPV (human papillomavirus) is a virus that is common in the United States and around the world and can cause cancer and genital warts. HPV is spread through sexual contact. There are about 100 types of HPV. HPV is the major cause cervical cancer in women and is also associated with several other types of cancer in both men and women.

How common is HPV?

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. At least 50 percent of sexually active people will get HPV at some time in their lives. Every year in the U.S., about 6.2 million people get HPV. HPV is most common in young women and men who are in their late teens and early 20s.

Is HPV the same thing as HIV or herpes?

No, HPV is not the same as HIV or herpes virus (herpes simplex virus or HSV). While these are all viruses that can be sexually transmitted—HIV and HSV do not cause the same symptoms or health problems as HPV.

Can HPV be treated?

There is no treatment for HPV. But there are treatments for the health problems that HPV can cause, such as genital warts, cervical cell changes, and cancers caused by HPV.

Will girls/women be protected against HPV and related diseases, even if they don’t get all three doses?

It is not yet known how much protection girls/women would get from receiving only one or two doses of the vaccine. For this reason, it is very important that girls/women get all three doses of the vaccine.

Does the vaccine protect against cervical cancer?

Yes, the HPV vaccine is the first vaccine developed to prevent cervical cancer. This new vaccine is highly effective in preventing HPV infection, the major cause of cervical cancer in women. The vaccine protects against four types of HPV, including two that cause about 70% of cervical cancer.

How common is cervical cancer?

Cervical cancer is a major health problem in the United States. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2006, over 9,710 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer and 3,700 will die from this disease.

Will the girls/women who have been vaccinated still need cervical cancer screening?

Yes, they will still need to see their healthcare provider for cervical cancer screening. There are three reasons why women will still need regular cervical cancer screening:

  1. The vaccine will not provide protection against all types of HPV that cause cervical cancer, so women will still be at risk for some cancers.
  2. Some women may not get all required doses of the vaccine (or they may not get them at the right times), so they may not get the vaccine’s full benefits.
  3. Women may also not get the vaccine’s full benefits if they already have HPV.

Should the vaccine be given to women who already have HPV?

People will HPV may benefit from the HPV vaccine since they are not usually infected with all four strains of virus.  However the vaccine is not considered as a treatment for existing HPV disease.

Who should receive the HPV vaccine?

The HPV vaccine is for all people ages 9 through 26 years.

Who should not receive the HPV vaccine?

Anyone who:

  • Is allergic to any components of the vaccine
  • Has an allergic reaction after getting a dose of the vaccine

What are other possible reasons that patients cannot receive this vaccine?

It is very important that patients let their provider know if they have had any of the following before receiving the HPV vaccine:

  • Allergic reaction to the vaccine
  • Bleeding disorder such that the patient cannot receive vaccines in the arm
  • Weakened immune system
  • Pregnant or planning pregnancy
  • Current illness with a fever greater than 100 degrees Fahrenheit

Why is HPV vaccine recommended for girls 11 to 12 years of age?

It is important for girls to get HPV vaccine before they become sexually active. The vaccine is most effective for girls/women who get vaccinated before their first sexual contact. It does not work as well for those who were exposed to the virus before getting the vaccine. However, most women will still benefit from getting the vaccine because they will be protected against other virus types contained in the vaccine.

Should pregnant women be vaccinated?

The vaccine is not recommended for pregnant women. There has only been limited information about vaccine safety among pregnant women and their unborn babies. So far, studies suggest that the vaccine has not caused health problems during pregnancy, nor has it caused health problems for the child. But more research is still needed. For now, pregnant women should wait to complete their pregnancy before getting the vaccine. If a women finds out she is pregnant after she has started getting the vaccine series, she should wait until after her pregnancy is completed to finish the three-dose series.

Will my child be required to get the vaccine before she enters school?

There are no federal laws requiring the immunization of children. All school and daycare entry laws are state laws and vary from state to state. Therefore, you should check with your state health department of Board of Education to find out what vaccines your child will need to enter school or daycare.

Each year the CDC publishes childhood and adolescent immunization schedules that provide recommended timelines for immunization of children and adolescents. The annual childhood and adolescent immunization schedules are a joint effort of the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). While these organizations have no regulatory authority over the immunization of children, the recommendations of the CDC, AAP, and AAFP are considered standards of medical practice and most physicians follow the recommendations.

What is the process for getting the vaccine at Hall Health Center?

For patients with an established provider at Hall Health, contact the provider’s medical assistant (MA) who can place an order for the vaccine with the provider’s agreement.  You may then come in to Immunization Clinic between 9:00 am and 4:00 pm Monday through Friday to receive the vaccine.  The clinic is a walk in clinic for this purpose.

For enrolled University of Washington, Seattle campus students without a provider at Hall Health Center should come in to the patient services center.  After taking insurance information, the patient service representative will schedule an appointment to see a consulting nurse.  The consulting nurse will consult with the on-call provider for that day who will sign the vaccine order.  The consulting nurse will then direct the patient to the Immunization Clinic.

For patients who are not established Hall Health Center patients and who are not students at the UW Campus, please call the schedulers at Hall Health Center at (206) 685-1081 to schedule a brief provider visit who can order the vaccine.

How much will the HPV vaccine cost?

The current (as of April 1, 2013) price of the vaccine at Hall Health is $192.00 per vaccine plus a $37.00 injection fee for a total of $229.00 per dose.  For a 3 dose series, the price will be $687.00.  If you are required to see a provider, the first visit will cost more due to the provider visit.

Will the vaccine be covered by insurance plans?

Most insurance plans and managed care plans cover recommended vaccines. However, there may be a lag-time after a vaccine is recommended, before it is available and covered by health plans. While some insurance companies may cover the vaccine, others may not.  We suggest you contact your health insurance for more information.

Source: The above information was obtained from the http://www.cdc.gov/ and the Patient Information sheet about Gardasil produced by the Merck vaccine division.

If you have any questions and are a UW student or established Hall Health patient, you may call one of our Consulting Nurses for further information.


Authored by: Hall Health Center Women’s Health Clinic staff

Reviewed by: Hall Health Center Women’s Health Clinic staff, January 2014