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All about HPV vaccines
the who, what, why, how and when
HPV vaccines do not treat HPV infections you already have or treat diseases or cancers related to HPV. They help protect against future HPV infection.
What are the HPV vaccines?
There are 3 types of vaccines to protect against HPV infection in Canada – Cervarix, Gardasil and Gardasil 9.
This vaccine 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 protects males and females against 2 types of HPV that cause genital warts and 2 types of HPV that cause cancer, types 16 and 18. Because Gardasil protects against 4 types of infection, it is called a quadrivalent vaccine.
Gardasil 9 protects males and females against 2 types of HPV that cause genital warts and 7 types of HPV that cause cancer, including types 16 and 18. Because Gardasil 9 protects against 9 types of infection, it is called a nonavalent vaccine.
Who should be vaccinated for HPV?
Vaccinating women and girls
Females between 9 and 45 years of age can be vaccinated with Cervarix, Gardasil or Gardasil 9 to prevent cervical cancer and precancerous cervical changes. Gardasil and Gardasil 9 may also prevent vaginal, vulvar and anal cancers and their precancers, as well as anogenital warts.
It’s important to know that HPV vaccines do not replace cervical cancer screening. Your doctor will still recommend a Pap test. HPV vaccines prevent infection from the most common types of HPV related to cancer, but not all.
Vaccinating men and boys
In Canada, about one-third of HPV-related 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.
School-based HPV vaccination programs
All provinces and territories have publicly funded, school-based HPV vaccination programs for girls 9 to 13 years of age (grades 4 to 8). Most vaccination programs also include boys.
When should you be vaccinated?
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 if they’re given before a person becomes sexually active because their risk of infection will be lower. The vaccines are also more effective in young teens when the immune system is most responsive to the vaccine.
What does the Canadian Cancer Society recommend about HPV vaccines?
We recommend that girls and women between the ages of 9 and 45 are vaccinated against HPV to help reduce their risk of HPV-related cancers. These include cervical, vaginal, vulvar and anal cancers and precancerous conditions linked to these cancers. HPV vaccination should be used along with, not instead of, cervical cancer screening.
We also recommend that boys and young men between the ages of 9 and 26 are vaccinated against HPV to help reduce their risk of HPV-related cancers such as anal and penile cancer.
HPV vaccines should be available in all provinces and territories and affordable for Canadians.
How safe are the vaccines?
Current evidence tells us that the HPV vaccines are safe, and their side effects are similar to the side effects of other types of vaccines. In Canada and in other countries, the safety of all 3 HPV vaccines is being monitored on a regular basis. The vaccines are not recommended for anyone under 9 years of age or for pregnant women.
Health Canada and the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) have approved and recommend HPV vaccines. Health Canada approves vaccines based on their effectiveness and safety. NACI provides recommendations for how the vaccines should best be used to prevent disease.
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. With longer follow-up of both vaccines, we’ll learn more about how long protection lasts and whether booster doses are needed for continued protection. There are currently no recommendations to have a booster.