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Merck Manual

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Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccine


Margot L. Savoy

, MD, MPH, Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University

Last full review/revision Oct 2020| Content last modified Oct 2020
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The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine helps protect against infection by the strains of HPV that are most likely to cause the following:

These disorders are caused by the human papillomavirus, which also causes genital warts.

The HPV vaccine contains only certain parts of the virus. The vaccine does not contain any live virus and thus cannot cause HPV infection.

For more information, see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) HPV (Human Papillomavirus) vaccine information statement.

There are three vaccines for HPV:

  • Nine-valent: Protects against nine types of HPV

  • Quadrivalent: Protects against four types of HPV

  • Bivalent: Protects against two types of HPV

All three HPV vaccines protect against the two types of HPV (types 16 and 18) that cause about 70% of cervical cancers and 90% of anal cancers. The nine-valent vaccine and quadrivalent vaccine protect against the two types of HPV (types 6 and 11) that cause more than 90% of genital warts, in addition to protecting against types 16 and 18. Only the nine-valent vaccine and quadrivalent vaccine are recommended for boys and men.

Only the nine-valent vaccine is currently available in the United States.


The HPV vaccine is given as an injection into a muscle in a 2-dose or a 3-dose series. If the initial dose of the HPV vaccination is given at age 9 to 14 years, a 2-dose series is given. If the initial dose of the HPV vaccination is given at age 15 years or older, a 3-dose series is given (see routine childhood vaccination).

The vaccine is recommended for

  • All males and females at age 11 or 12 (but can be started at age 9) and previously unvaccinated or not adequately vaccinated people through age 26 years

  • All adults age 27 to 45 years after discussing with their doctor whether they should be vaccinated

If people have a temporary illness, doctors usually wait to give the vaccine until the illness resolves (see also CDC: Who Should NOT Get Vaccinated With These Vaccines?).

Side Effects

The injection site sometimes becomes sore, swollen, and red. No serious side effects have been reported.

More Information

The following are some English-language resources that may be useful. Please note that THE MANUAL is not responsible for the content of these resources.

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