HPV Vaccine (Gardasil)

What is the HPV vaccine?

  • In July 2006, Health Canada approved a vaccine that protects against four of the many types of Human Papillomavirus (HPV) that are responsible for causing cancer of the cervix and genital warts. (See below for more information on HPV.)
  • The vaccine has been approved for females between 9 and 45 years of age and males aged 9 - 26.
  • Information on use of HPV vaccines in men and women over the approved ages can be discussed with a physician.
  • HPV vaccine does not replace Pap tests, but is an important new advance to help prevent cancer of the cervix.

Should I have the HPV vaccine?

  • The vaccine is most effective if received from 9 to 13 years of age, before possible exposure to HPV through sexual contact.
  • Females between 14 and 45 years and men between 14 and 26 years would benefit even if they are already sexually active, as they may not yet have HPV infection.
  • Even if someone has been previously diagnosed with HPV it is unlikely that they would be infected with all four HPV types included in the vaccine, and could therefore still benefit from the vaccine.
  • If you are a teenager, you can talk with your parents, a family physician, or a nurse about this decision.

If I get the HPV vaccine, should I stop having Pap tests?

  • No, it is very important to keep having Pap tests after receiving the vaccine.
  • Even if you've had the HPV vaccine, it is important to start having regular Pap tests once you become sexually active or soon after.
  • For more information on Pap tests, please go to: http://www.bccancer.bc.ca

How do I get the HPV vaccine?

  • Talk to your doctor or nurse about the vaccine to decide if it is a good option for you.
  • It is available at the Vancouver Opt clinic, some doctor's offices, community clinics, travel clinics, public health units, or sexual health clinics.

One-Time Vaccine Program for Women Ages 19, 20 and 21  (April 2012)

British Columbia (BC) is launching a time limited program of free HPV vaccination for young women turning 19, 20 and 21 years old in 2012, who were born in 1991, 1992, and 1993, the three years prior to the age of the oldest cohort of girls offered the vaccine in BC schools. This program for the prevention of cervical cancer is in addition to the school-based offering of HPV vaccine since September 2008, through which girls in grades 6 through 12 are eligible.

For more information http://immunizebc.ca/diseases-vaccinations/hpv

Benefits and Facts

Limitations

The vaccine is an important advance in preventing cervical cancer and genital warts.

The vaccine will not protect patients against types of HPV to which they have already been exposed.

If received before possible exposure to HPV through sexual contact, the vaccine protects against two of the many high-risk types of HPV (16 and 18), which are responsible for 70% of cervical cancer cases.

It does not protect against infection with other high-risk types of HPV that also cause cancer of the cervix.

The vaccine protects against two low-risk HPV types (6 and 11) that are associated with 90% of genital warts.

It does not protect against infection with the other low-risk types of HPV.

The vaccine offers protection for at least ten years.

A booster may be required for protection beyond ten years.

Three doses are needed over a six-month period.

You must receive all three doses to be fully protected.

The vaccine costs about $400-$500 in Canada, for all three doses.

Currently, many patients must pay for the vaccine - this may present a barrier. If you have extended health insurance, your plan may cover the cost of the vaccine. The Vancouver OPT clinic provides the vaccine at a reduced cost.

The vaccine is safe, effective and has few side effects (mild pain or swelling at injection site).

The vaccine requires an injection by a doctor or nurse.

Get the facts about HPV and cervical cancer:

  • HPV is a sexually transmitted virus that can cause cancer of the cervix.
  • HPV can also cause genital warts.
  • Regular screening with Pap tests can prevent almost all cases of cancer of the cervix. 
  • Pap tests can detect changes in the cervix that could progress to cancer, if not treated.
  • Cervical cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death for women around the world, and is still a significant cause of death among Canadian women.
  • A major reason that women continue to die of cervical cancer is never or seldom having Pap tests.

More information on HPV or the vaccine.

This fact sheet was adapted from Ontario Cervical Screening Program.

FS436
Revised April 2012