University Health Service

A hand holds a note that reads, The HPV vaccine can help prevent cancers such as cervical and oral cancers.

How to get immunized:

Immunization is an effective means to help prevent HPV infection and some types of cancers. UHS can help you start or complete your vaccination series. See Immunizations for details.

On this page:

What is HPV?

HPV stands for human papilloma virus. Genital HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the US. More than half of sexually active people in the US have HPV at some time during their lives. It is spread through skin-to-skin sexual contact.

HPV is important mainly because it can cause cancers of the cervix, penis, anus, and head and neck. Globally, cervical cancer is the second leading cause of cancer in women. The virus can also cause genital warts.

What types of HPV vaccine are available and what are the benefits?

UHS provides Gardasil-9, which offers protection against nine HPV strains.

UHS does not provide Gardasil 4 or Cervarix because Gardasil-9 offers greater protection. If you started but did not complete the series of Cervarix or Gardasil-4 elsewhere, you may continue here with Gardasil-9. You do not need to restart the series. You will need 3 total doses of HPV vaccine.

If you completed the Gardasil 4 series, it is not recommended to have Gardasil-9. 

Please note that if a person is already exposed to a specific type of HPV, vaccination will not prevent disease from that type. However, vaccination is still recommended to protect against other types of HPV.

How is HPV vaccine given?

HPV vaccine is given as a 3-dose series if started after age 15. The second dose is given 2 months after the first dose, and the third dose is given 6 months after the first dose. If you miss that timing, you can still complete the series. 

How to get HPV vaccination at UHS:

See Immunizations for details. 

Who should get HPV vaccine?

HPV vaccine is approved for use in persons ages 9-45. If you are more than 26 years old, we encourage you to talk with your health care provider about whether the vaccine would benefit you.

It is preferable to receive the vaccine before beginning sexual activity. However, vaccination is still recommended (depending on age) for those who are already sexually active.

UHS does not recommend Cervarix or Gardasil-4 vaccine because it does not protect as well as Gardasil-9.

Children should get the vaccine through their pediatrician.

Who should not get HPV vaccine?

Anyone with life-threatening allergic reaction to yeast or any other component of HPV vaccine, or to a previous dose of HPV vaccine. Tell your health care provider if you have severe allergies.

Pregnant women should not get the vaccine. However, receiving HPV vaccine when pregnant is not a reason to consider terminating a pregnancy.

People with moderate or severe illness should wait until they recover. People who are mildly ill can still get the vaccine.

Risks of vaccination:

HPV vaccine does not appear to have serious side effects. As with any vaccine, however, HPV vaccine could possibly cause serious problems such as severe allergic reaction. The risk is small.

Minor problems may occur (and will likely go away on their own) including:

  • Pain, redness, itching or swelling at injection site (arm)
  • Mild to moderate fever (100-102 degrees F)

HPV vaccine is not a substitute for cervical cancer screening (Pap test)

See also Pap Tests and HPV.

More information: