HPV vaccines

One way to protect yourself from HPV is by getting vaccinated.

Two HPV vaccines are available in Canada: Gardasil and Cervarix. Both vaccines protect against HPV-16 and HPV-18, the two strains that account for 70% of cervical cancers and precancerous *cervical cell changes. In Canada, Gardasil is also approved to prevent anal, vaginal and vulvar cancers and their precancers, as well as anal and genital warts.

How do the HPV vaccines work?

The vaccines work by stimulating the body to produce antibodies against the types of HPV they target. Antibodies prevent HPV infections — antibodies prevent the diseases associated with these HPV types. It’s important to understand that while the vaccines prevent HPV infections, they do not treat or “cure” HPV infections.

HPV vaccines are most effective when given to young people before they are sexually active. This is because the vaccines are effective only for HPV strains that you haven’t yet been exposed to. You can get vaccinated after you have been sexually active, but you might not be protected from some strains of HPV.

Who can get the vaccine?

The Canadian Cancer Society recommends that the HPV vaccine should be available to anyone age 9-45 who has a cervix. That includes non-trans girls and young women and, trans boys and men who have not had a hysterectomy.

Non-trans boys and young men between the ages of 9 and 26 should also be vaccinated.

Ontario currently runs a province-wide vaccination program for non-trans girls and young women and young trans men in grades 8 through 12. Ontario does not currently have a school-based HPV vaccination program for non-trans boys.

How do I get the vaccine? How is it administered?

Gardasil and Cervarix are given by an injection into an arm muscle. Doses are administered three times over a six-month period. You can get the vaccine by:

  • participating in the Ontario-wide program for non-trans young women and young trans men in grades 8 through 12. Public health units visit local high schools and set up immunization clinics. Parental consent is needed.
  • visiting your primary healthcare provider.

Talk to your healthcare provider about the HPV vaccine and what’s right for you.

How much does it cost?

The vaccination is free of charge for non-trans young women and trans young men between grades 8 through 12 through a voluntary, Ontario-wide, school-based vaccination program.

For people who cannot participate in the free vaccination programs, the vaccine costs about $540 for all three doses. Private insurance policies may cover some of the costs.

Do I still have to get Pap tests if I get vaccinated against HPV?

Yes. Even if you are vaccinated against HPV, you still need to have regular Pap tests. HPV vaccines should be used along with, not instead of, *cervical cancer screening. That’s because the vaccines prevent infection from HPV types associated with only 70% of cervical cancer. About 30% of cervical cancers are caused by other types of HPV and will not be prevented by the vaccines.

As well, if you became sexually active before you were vaccinated, you may already have been exposed to HPV. HPV vaccines protect only against strains of the virus you have not already been exposed to.

More information on the HPV vaccine can be found here.

*A note on terminology: On this website, we refer to some body parts, including the cervix, vagina and uterus, in order to discuss cervical cancer. We do recognize that many trans men and people on the trans masculine/ female-to-male (FtM) spectrum may feel ambivalent about or distanced from these terms or prefer other terms, such as “front hole.” We minimize our use of these terms wherever possible, while also acknowledging and attempting to normalize the reality that men can have these body parts too.