How common is HPV?
HPV is very common. Eight out of 10 sexually active people will have HPV at some point in their life.
HPV is a common sexually transmitted infection which usually causes no symptoms. Most people clear the virus without ever knowing they have it.
However, if HPV doesn’t clear naturally from a person's body, it can sometimes cause serious illness, including cancer.
Learn more about HPV.
How does the HPV vaccine prevent cervical cancer and other HPV-related illnesses?
HPV causes almost all cases of cervical cancers, 95 per cent of other HPV-related cancers and about 90 per cent of genital warts. By having the HPV vaccine, you are reducing your risk of contracting the types of HPV which can be harmful to your health.
The HPV vaccine has been proven to help prevent cervical abnormalities which can develop into cervical cancer. It also helps prevent other cell abnormalities that cause other HPV-related illnesses and cancers.
When is the best time to get the HPV vaccine?
The HPV vaccine works best if it’s given before possible exposure to HPV, which is before you're sexually active.
The vaccine also works best when given at a younger age. Younger people create more antibodies to the vaccine than those aged in their late teens.
People aged 9 to 25 years need to have a single dose of the HPV vaccine, unless they are immunocompromised.
Three doses of HPV vaccine are recommended for some immunocompromised people, with an interval of two months between dose one and two, and four months between dose two and three.
The HPV vaccination is free for people living in Australia aged 12 to 25 under the National Immunisation Program.
Learn more about how you can get the HPV vaccine.
Can I still have the HPV vaccine if I’m aged 26 and over?
HPV vaccination is not routinely recommended for people aged 26 and over. This is because the HPV vaccine works better when given at a younger age, and the benefit of having it tends to decrease as you get older.
If you have been sexually active (with anyone of any gender) it is likely you have already been exposed to one or more types of HPV that the vaccine prevents against. The HPV vaccine only prevents new HPV infections and does not treat or cure existing infections.
However, some people aged 26 and over may benefit from HPV vaccination, but you may need to pay for the vaccine. The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) recommends that the following groups of people can also receive the HPV vaccine:
- males aged >26 years in high-risk groups, such as men who have sex with men
- people of any age who are immunocompromised
ATAGI also recommends that males and females older than the upper indicated ages can receive 9vHPV (Gardasil) vaccine if they are at risk of future HPV exposure and disease.
When deciding whether or not you should be vaccinated against HPV, you should talk to your doctor or immunisation provider. Factors to consider include:
- Whether you are immunocompromised. HPV is more likely to persist and cause problems for people with significant immunocompromised conditions or immunosuppression (for example, post-transplant, people living with HIV, receiving immunosuppression for autoimmune diseases)
- Your future risk of new HPV exposure (potential future sexual activity)
- Past history of high-grade cervical disease or other HPV-related precancers or cancers (which indicate a higher likelihood that any new HPV infections may persist and cause disease)
- Other risk factors.
Men who have sex with men are at a higher risk of anal cancer and HPV vaccination is recommended at any age to reduce this risk. To find out if HPV vaccination is right for you, talk to your doctor or immunisation provider.
How do you contract HPV?
HPV infects people of all genders and sexual identities. It’s commonly spread through genital-skin contact during sexual activity through tiny breaks in the skin.
You can be exposed to HPV the first time you are sexually active with another person, no matter what their gender is. You can get HPV even if you have only had one sexual partner.
HPV can remain dormant for many years. This means people in long-term monogamous relationships or people who have not been sexually active for many years can still contract HPV.
Do condoms protect you against HPV?
No. Condoms offer some protection from HPV but do not cover all genital skin. This means HPV can still be transmitted. Condoms are still important for practicing safe sex as they do protect you from many other sexually transmitted infections.
Can you contract HPV from the HPV vaccine?
No. The HPV vaccine does not contain any live virus, killed virus or DNA from the virus. This means you cannot contract HPV or develop any HPV-related cancers or illnesses from the vaccine.
Learn more about the safety and possible side effects of the HPV vaccine.
Why do males need the HPV vaccine?
HPV affects people of all genders. HPV can cause genital warts and cancers of the penis, anus and the mouth/throat in males.
However, these cancers are uncommon and most males who get HPV never develop any symptoms. Males who receive the HPV vaccine are also less likely to spread HPV to their sexual partners which in turn can protect them from HPV-related illnesses.
The below factors may make it more likely for males to develop HPV-related cancers:
- Persistent infection with HPV.
- Smoking – this can increase the likelihood that HPV will persist in the body.
- Age – male HPV-related cancer risk increases with age.
- Weakened immune systems – people who are immunocompromised. For example, people with HIV or AIDS, organ transplant recipients, or people who are taking certain medications that suppress the immune system are at an increased risk of genital HPV infection.
- Men who have sex with men are at increased risk of HPV infection and HPV-related disease. The incidence of anal cancer in men who have sex with men is more than 30 times higher than men who don’t have sex with other men.
What factors increase the risk of getting HPV?
Some factors increase the risk of HPV-related cancers because they increase the risk of being infected with HPV.
The more sexual partners a person has, the higher their risk of being exposed to and getting HPV is. This also increases their risk of HPV-related cancers. However, HPV exposure can occur the first time a person is sexually active, and in people who have only had one sexual partner.
Starting sexual activity at an earlier age also increases a person’s risk of getting HPV. This is because the time period for them to have been infected by HPV is longer.
Some factors increase the risk of HPV-related cancers because they increase the risk that an HPV infection will persist. Find out more about these factors.
When did Australia’s National Immunisation Program change to a one-dose HPV vaccination schedule?
The Australian Department of Health and Aged Care announced the change to the HPV vaccination schedule from two doses to one dose on 6 February 2023.
This means most people aged 12 to 25 will only need one dose of the HPV vaccine to protect themselves against HPV-related cancers and illnesses. In Australia, the HPV vaccine is free for anyone aged 12 to 25 under the National Immunisation Program.
Why do people aged 9 to 25 only need one dose of the HPV vaccine now?
There is strong evidence that a single dose of the HPV vaccine provides protection against HPV that is comparable to a two-dose schedule.
In April 2022, the World Health Organization’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) endorsed the use of just one dose of HPV vaccine to protect against cervical cancer. This was further endorsed by a WHO position paper in December 2022.
Based on increased evidence of the efficacy of a one-dose schedule and advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI), the Australian Department of Health and Aged Care now recommends a one-dose schedule of HPV vaccination for people aged 9 to 25. In Australia, the HPV vaccine is free for anyone aged 12 to 25 under the National Immunisation Program.
My child was previously recommended to have multiple doses of the HPV vaccine but has only had one dose so far. Do they still need the extra doses?
In most cases, your child will now only require one dose of the vaccine, even if they were previously recommended to have multiple doses. If they have had a single dose and are not immunocompromised, they are now considered fully vaccinated for HPV.
If your child is living with an immunocompromised condition, they may still require three doses of the vaccine. If you have questions or need more information, you can contact your local immunisation provider or doctor.
Do some people still need multiple doses of the HPV vaccine?
People living with immunocompromised conditions may still need three doses of the HPV vaccine with an interval of two months between dose one and two, and four months between dose two and three. If you have questions or need more information, you can contact your local immunisation provider or doctor.
How will the change to a one-dose vaccine schedule for HPV be monitored to make sure it provides effective protection against HPV?
In addition to the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) monitoring vaccine safety. the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) regularly reviews and monitors available clinical evidence about the effectiveness of all vaccines. These organisations work together to ensure that all vaccines administered under the National Immunisation Program are safe and effective, including the HPV vaccine.
What is the history of the HPV vaccine?
University of Queensland researcher and 2006 Australian of the Year Professor Ian Frazer first started developing a vaccine for HPV in the 1990s, along with his colleague, the late Dr Jian Zhou.
In 2006, the Therapeutic Goods Authority approved the HPV vaccine Gardasil ® which protected against four types of HPV.
In 2007, Australia became the first country that rolled out a national HPV vaccination program. Initially, the program offered the HPV vaccine Gardasil ® using a three-dose schedule to all female students aged about 12-13 (as well as all girls and women aged up to 26 years until the end of 2009) and then in 2013 the program was expanded to include male students.
Since 2018, Gardasil ®9 has been used in Australia’s school-based National Immunisation Program, which protects against nine types of HPV.
In February 2023, Australia changed its schedule for the HPV vaccine on the National Immunisation Program from two doses of Gardasil ®9 to a single dose of Gardasil ®9 for most people.
More than 500 million doses of Gardasil ® and 110 million doses of Gardasil ®9 have been administered worldwide.
I’ve recently had COVID or been unwell – can I go ahead with my HPV vaccine?
If you’ve recently been unwell, it’s best that you wait until you feel better to have the HPV vaccine.
My child missed out on the HPV vaccine. What does that delay mean?
The HPV vaccine is most effective when given to children between 9 and 14. This is because younger people create more antibodies to the vaccine than children aged in their late teens.
People aged 9 to 25 years need to have a single dose of the HPV vaccine, unless they are immunocompromised. The HPV vaccination is free for people living in Australia aged 12 to 25 under the National Immunisation Program.
If your child missed out on the HPV vaccination, you can follow up with your doctor or immunisation provider to catch up. While the HPV virus might not seem like a priority now, it can protect the future health of your child.
How long do I have to wait after a COVID-19 vaccination or booster to have an HPV vaccination? Or vice versa?
There is no minimum amount of time required between getting the HPV vaccine and any COVID-19 vaccinations. You could have both on the same day if you wish. If you are concerned about other vaccinations your child requires then speak to your doctor.