HPV Vaccine Q&A
The HPV vaccine is now available in some clinics and doctor’s offices throughout Oregon. Check with your healthcare provider to see if the vaccine is available and, if not, when it may become available
How much will it cost?
The HPV vaccine costs $120 per shot. Three shots are required within 6 months to be most effective. Many health insurance programs cover this vaccination. Whether you need to pay for part of the cost varies, so check with your health insurance company to see what coverage you have.
Federal health programs like Vaccines for Children (VFC) include the HPV vaccine in their programs. VFC may provide this vaccine at no cost to teens and children under 19 who are Medicaid eligible, uninsured, American Indian, or Alaska Native in over 45,000 sites.
If you don’t have insurance or can’t afford the vaccine, contact your county health department or community health center for information about how to get vaccinated.
Will my insurance cover it?
Most large insurance providers usually cover recommended vaccines. Contact your insurance provider for specific details.
What about booster shots?
Just like when other new vaccines have been introduced, we don’t know for sure yet whether a booster shot will be needed. Studies are currently being done to see whether or not a booster (additional shot some time after the original series) will be needed.
How safe is the vaccine?
The HPV vaccine has been licensed as safe and effective by the FDA. The vaccine was tested in over 11,000 females (ages 9-26 years) around the world, and studies found no serious side effects. The most common side effect is soreness at the injection site. The vaccine does not contain thimerosal or mercury.
Who should get the vaccine? At what age? What about boys?
Gardasil, an HPV vaccine, is approved for girls ages 9-26. Cervarix, another HPV vaccine, was approved in 2009 for use in girls 9-26. Gardasil was approved for use in boys 9-18 in 2009 as well. . The vaccine works best when it is given before the onset of sexual activity.
What is the difference between the two vaccines?
Gardasil is protects against four strains of HPV, two that cause cervical cancer and two that cause genital warts. Cervarix protects against two types of HPV that cause cervical cancer.
Are there any resources for parents about the vaccine?
Should pregnant women be vaccinated?
Because there is limited research on the safety of the vaccine for pregnant women and their unborn babies, the vaccine is not recommended for pregnant women.
Should older women be vaccinated? (over age 26, higher range of recommended age of women for vaccination)
The FDA has licensed the vaccine for use in women 9-26. The vaccine is most effective before the onset of sexual activity. Women over the age of 26 who have not begun sexual activity may be considered eligible to receive the vaccine by their health care provider.
If my child has been (or if I am) vaccinated against HPV, should she receive Pap tests at age 21 or older?
Yes, continuing to get Pap tests will be important. Because the vaccine does not protect against all types of HPV that cause cervical cancer, women should still get Pap tests. Also, a woman may not receive the full benefit of the vaccine if she didn’t receive all the doses or already has one of the HPV types that the vaccine protects against.
Should I get the vaccine even though I have already been diagnosed with HPV? What if I’ve had an abnormal Pap test in the past?
If you have already been diagnosed with HPV, receiving the vaccine is likely to have little or no benefit. The vaccine does not treat current HPV infections or cervical changes that can lead to cancer.
Does the vaccine protect against other consequences of HPV such as genital warts?
Gardasil, one of the current FDA approved HPV vaccine, protects against two strains of HPV (6 & 11) which cause 90% of genital warts in addition to protecting against 2 strains of HPV (16 & 18) which cause 70% of cervical cancers. Cervarix does not protect against genital warts.
Is HPV a sexually transmitted disease?
HPV is mainly transmitted by direct genital contact during vaginal or anal intercourse. HPV does not live in blood or organs, and isn’t spread through bodily fluids.
HPV is very common. Each year 6 million people in the U.S. develop HPV, and 75% of sexually active people will contract HPV some time in their lives.
How can you tell if you're infected with HPV?
Most people will never know whether or not they have HPV because there are usually no symptoms unless genital warts develop. Not everybody develops genital warts, but the virus can still be in their system to be spread to others and cause damage to their bodies.
How can you prevent getting infected with HPV?
You can lower your chances of being infected by HPV by limiting the number of sexual partners you have and choosing partners who have had few sexual partners. Condoms may reduce the risk of cervical cancer and genital warts, but HPV can be transmitted to areas not covered by the condom. Using condoms the right way all the time lowers your risk of getting HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Can you cure HPV?
While there is no cure for HPV, there are good treatments for the health effects that can be caused by HPV such as cervical changes like cervical dysplasia, cervical cancer, and genital warts.
How is HPV treated?
For most women, HPV infections will go away on their own, and very few infections go on to cause cervical cancer. If abnormal cells are found, usually on a Pap test, then further evaluation is needed to determine what treatment is best.
If I have HPV, what is the risk to my partner?
If you are sexually active with a partner, you are likely to share HPV with your partner. HPV is very common so if your partner has ever been sexually active with someone besides you, your partner is likely to have been exposed to HPV already.
Should I get an HPV test?
HPV testing is, at this point, not recommended for general use because HPV is very common and cervical cancer is rare. HPV tests may be used in combination with Pap tests in some women over 30. Check with your healthcare provider to find out if HPV testing along with a Pap test is right for you.
Should my partner get tested?
Men can be visually inspected for signs of HPV such as lesions and warts. There is currently no approved test for HPV in men. Men with a history of receptive anal sex may want to talk to their provider about an anal Pap test.
If an HPV test is positive does it mean my partner has been unfaithful?
Almost everyone gets HPV at some time or another. HPV can be contracted, lie dormant, and then be transmitted to another person unknowingly. The length of time it can lie dormant is unclear.
For further resources, please see links to additional information.
SOURCES for Q&A:
- American Cancer Society
- The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
- American Social Health Association
- American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology 800-787-7227
and CDC faqs
- National Cancer Institute
- National Network for Immunization Information
- New York Department of Health
- Mayo Clinic
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration
This Web site is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your physician. The content provided here is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health care.