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HPV vaccines

There are 3 types of vaccines to protect against HPV infection in Canada – Cervarix, Gardasil and Gardasil 9. HPV vaccines do not treat HPV infections you already have or treat diseases or cancers associated with HPV.

Cervarix

Cervarix protects females against HPV types 16 and 18. Because Cervarix protects against 2 types of infection, it is called a bivalent vaccine. Cervarix does not protect against genital warts.

Gardasil

Gardasil protects males and females against 2 types of low-risk HPV that cause genital warts (types 6 and 11) and 2 types of high-risk HPV that cause cancer (types 16 and 18). Because Gardasil protects against 4 types of infection, it is called a quadrivalent vaccine. 

Gardasil 9

Gardasil 9 protects males and females against 2 types of low-risk HPV that cause genital warts (types 6 and 11) and 7 types of high-risk HPV that cause cancer (types 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52 and 58). Because Gardasil 9 protects against 9 types of infection, it is called a nonavalent vaccine. 

HPV vaccines have been approved and recommended by Health Canada and the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI). Health Canada approves vaccines based on their effectiveness and safety, while NACI provides recommendations for how the vaccines should best be used to prevent disease.

All provinces and territories have publicly funded, school-based HPV vaccination programs for girls 9 to 13 years of age (grades 4 to 8). Many vaccination programs also include boys. 

  • Our recommendation

    Girls and women between the ages of 9 and 45 should be vaccinated against HPV to help reduce their risk of HPV-associated cancers. These include cervical, vaginal, vulvar and anal cancers and precancerous conditions associated with these cancers. HPV vaccination should be used along with, not instead of, cervical cancer screening.

    Boys and young men between the ages of 9 and 26 should be vaccinated against HPV to help reduce their risk of HPV-related cancers such as anal and penile cancer.

    Get vaccinated or have your children vaccinated through school-based programs where available. If you are not eligible for a free vaccination, talk to your doctor about which vaccine is right for you and when you should have it.

    HPV vaccines should be available in all provinces and territories and affordable for Canadians.

  • Vaccination of girls and women

    Cervarix, Gardasil and Gardasil 9 are available for the prevention of cervical cancer and precancerous cervical changes in females between 9 and 45 years of age. Gardasil and Gardasil 9 are also approved for girls and women aged 9 to 45 to prevent vaginal and vulvar cancer, their precancers and anogenital warts. They are also approved for girls and women aged 9 to 26 to prevent anal cancer and its precancer.

    Cervical cancer screening is important

    HPV vaccination does not change the need for cervical cancer screening. HPV vaccines prevent infection from the most common types of HPV associated with cancer, but not all. HPV vaccines should be viewed as a complement to cervical cancer screening – they do not replace it.

  • Vaccination of boys and men

    In Canada, about one-third of HPV-associated cancers occur in males. Gardasil and Gardasil 9 are available for boys and young men between the ages of 9 and 26 to prevent anal cancer, its precancer and anogenital warts.

    Dosing and safety of the vaccines

    The vaccines are given 2 or 3 times over a 6 to 12 month period. The timing of doses is important to make sure the vaccines are as effective as possible. If all doses of the vaccine are not given, or they are not given at the right time, you may not get the full benefit of the vaccine.

    The vaccines are most effective when given before the onset of sexual activity when the probability of prior infection is low. The vaccines are also more effective in young teens when the immune system is most responsive to the vaccine.

    How safe are the vaccines?

    Current evidence tells us that the vaccines are safe and the side effects that occur are similar to those experienced with other vaccines. The safety of all 3 HPV vaccines is being followed in Canada and other countries on an ongoing basis. The vaccines are not recommended for:

    • anyone under 9 years of age
    • pregnant women

    How long do the vaccines last? 

    Research so far shows that protection can last at least 8 years for Gardasil and more than 9 years with Cervarix. Information from longer follow-up of both vaccines will provide answers on how long protection lasts and whether booster doses will be needed for continued protection. 

  • Vaccine research and surveillance

    In addition to anogenital cancers, HPV can cause cancers in the mouth and throat, with most occurring in the oropharynx. Research shows that HPV vaccination reduces HPV infection in these areas, so it is likely that the HPV vaccines also prevent these mouth and throat cancers. Research is ongoing.

    Researchers are also studying whether the vaccines may also protect against other high-risk types of HPV not directly covered by the vaccine. 

    HPV vaccines do not protect against breast, ovarian, prostate and other reproductive cancers because these cancers are not caused by HPV.

    HPV vaccines are expected to be very effective in reducing the number of cancers caused by HPV. However, ongoing research and monitoring is needed to find out:

    • how many people are getting vaccinated
    • the impact the vaccine has on reducing the number of people with HPV infection
    • the impact the vaccine has on reducing the incidence of cervical cancer and other HPV-associated cancers and precancerous conditions
    • the long-term safety of the vaccines
    • how long and how well the vaccines will provide protection
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