What is the HPV vaccine?
The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine used in Australia is called Gardasil ®9 and protects you against nine types of HPV that are responsible for most HPV-related illnesses.
The HPV vaccine provides fully-vaccinated people with protection against nine types of HPV, including:
- Types 16 and 18: these are the two types of HPV that cause most HPV-related cancers.
- The five next most common HPV types associated with cervical cancer (types 31, 33, 45, 52 and 58).
- Two non-cancer-causing HPV types (types 6 and 11), which cause 90 per cent of genital warts.
The Gardasil ®9 vaccine is made from tiny proteins that look like the outside of a real HPV cell. The vaccine does not contain any live virus, killed virus or DNA from the virus so it cannot cause cancer or other HPV-related illnesses.
The HPV vaccine also contains other ingredients that help stimulate the immune system, keeps the vaccine stable and makes it suitable for injection. It contains aluminium, sodium chloride (salt), water, L-histidine, Polysorbate 80 and Borax.
You can read more about what the HPV vaccine contains.
How does the HPV vaccine work?
The vaccine is made from tiny proteins that look like the outside of real HPV. When the HPV vaccine is given, your body makes antibodies. This means when you are exposed to HPV, the same antibodies prevent HPV from entering your cells.
Watch this video to learn more about how the vaccine works.
Safety of the HPV vaccine
The HPV vaccination has been offered under Australia’s National Immunisation Program since 2007 and the use of the HPV vaccine has never been halted or suspended in Australia.
The HPV vaccine is safe and rigorously tested.
You can read the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance’s (NCIRS) Position Statement about the safety and efficacy of the HPV vaccine.
Learn more about the safety and side effects of the HPV vaccine.
How effective is the HPV vaccine?
The Gardasil ®9 HPV vaccine is highly effective. Protection is long lasting.
It provides almost 100 per cent protection from nine HPV types (types 6, 11, 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52 and 58) if it is given before you before you have an infection with these types of HPV.
The HPV vaccine is more effective when given at a younger age. Research shows that younger children create more antibodies when given the vaccine than older children do.
The vaccine program in Australia has greatly reduced the number of HPV infections, genital warts and pre-cancer of the cervix, and from other countries has already proven that it reduces the risk of cervical cancer.
The HPV vaccine does not protect against ovarian cancer, endometrial cancer, uterine cancer, other sexually transmitted diseases or prevent pregnancy.
Who should have the HPV vaccine?
The HPV vaccine is recommended for all people living in Australia aged 9 to 25 and is free for anyone aged between 12 and 25 years of age under the National Immunisation Program.
The HPV vaccine is offered to all Australian children aged about 12-13 for free through the Secondary School Immunisation Program as part of the National Immunisation Program.
The HPV vaccine is also recommended for people at higher risk of developing HPV-related diseases, such as people living with HIV, significantly immunocompromised groups and men who have sex with men. Speak to your doctor or immunisation nurse to find out more.
If you are aged over 26 and wish to have the HPV vaccine speak to your doctor and seek their advice.
If you’ve moved to Australia after the age of 12 or 13 and aren’t sure if you’ve been vaccinated against HPV, you can check your vaccination status with your home country's relevant immunisation service or health department.
When should I have the HPV vaccine?
The HPV vaccine works best if it’s given before exposure to HPV – that is, before a person becomes sexually active. The HPV vaccine is most effective when given to children between 9 and 14 because at this age you create more antibodies to the vaccine compared with children in their late teens. That’s why the HPV vaccine is offered to all Australian children aged about 12-13 through the Secondary School Immunisation Program as part of the National Immunisation Program.
However, in Australia the HPV vaccine is free for anyone aged 12 to 25 under the National Immunisation Program. It is accessed through a GP, pharmacy or local immunisation provider.
Some people who are immunocompromised may be recommended by their doctor to have the HPV vaccine at an earlier age. Some people may be recommended to have the HPV vaccine, even if they are aged 26 and over (for example, immunocompromised populations, men who have sex with men). To find out if you should have the HPV vaccine speak to a doctor or an immunisation provider.
Who shouldn’t have the HPV vaccine?
You shouldn’t have the HPV vaccine if you:
- have a yeast allergy
- are pregnant (however research has shown no significant effect on you or your baby if you receive the vaccine and later find out you are pregnant)
- have a bleeding disorder
- have had anaphylaxis (serious allergy) to a previous dose of the HPV vaccine or any of the vaccine ingredients.
Parents should note reactions to any previous vaccination or medicine on the consent form when they return it to their child's school.
If you're having the vaccine, make sure you tell the person giving you the injection about any reactions you've had to vaccines or medicine before.
How many doses are administered?
People aged between 9 and 25 living in Australia need to have one dose the HPV vaccine unless they are immunocompromised.
Immunocompromised people – including those living with HIV – may still need three doses of the HPV vaccine. Talk to your preferred immunisation provider to discuss how many doses are recommended for you.
Can I delay the HPV vaccine?
The HPV vaccine works best if it’s given before exposure to HPV – that is before a person becomes sexually active. 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.
Therefore, it’s recommended to have the HPV vaccine at a younger age and to catch-up on getting the HPV vaccine as soon as you can.
How can I catch up if I’ve missed the vaccine?
You can catch up on the HPV vaccine for free until you turn 26 (if you missed out on getting the HPV vaccination at school) by seeing your local doctor or immunisation provider. After you turn 26, you will need to pay for the vaccine.
The HPV vaccine is approved for use in Australia for females aged 9 to 45 years and males aged 9 to 26 years, however the vaccine is only free for those aged 12-25. Sometimes your doctor may recommend you have the HPV vaccine if you are outside of these age ranges. For more information speak to your doctor or immunisation provider.
Learn more about how to catch up on a missed vaccine.