Who should get the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine?


Since Gardasil can prevent human papillomavirus (HPV), it should generally be given to young women before they become sexually active. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends that Gardasil be given to all girls 11 to 12 years of age. The vaccine is approved for girls and women 9 to 26 years of age and is given as a series of three injections over a six-month period. Gardasil is covered by most insurance companies.

Boys and girls should get the first of two human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines starting at age 11 or 12. They should get the last HPV vaccine within a year. After age 15, three doses are needed. HPV vaccines can begin any time before age 26 for women and 21 for men.

Dr. Howard M. Saul, DO
Gynecologic Oncologist

It's best to give the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine to a person who has never been exposed to the virus itself. That's why healthcare professionals recommend the vaccine for people as young as 11 years old. However, even if a person has been exposed to HPV and he or she is 26 or younger, the vaccine still can be quite protective.

The initial series of vaccines is three shots over a six-month period, and experts feel that the effect will last for many years.

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One HPV vaccine (called Cervarix) is only given to females aged 9 to 25; another (called Gardasil) is given to boys as well as girls ages 9 to 26. Each vaccine is given in three doses (shots) over a six-month period. Women who are pregnant should not get the HPV vaccine until after the baby is born.

The HPV vaccines work best in people who haven't been exposed to the virus. Gardasil protects against four types of HPV; Cervarix against two. Studies show the vaccine prevents about 70 percent of cervical cancers if it is given to women and girls before they have sex for the first time. Gardasil also protects against about 90 percent of genital warts.

Dr. Kari R. Harris, MD

Boys and girls at age 11 or 12 should get the HPV vaccine. In addition, any boy who has not completed the series should continue to get vaccinated until age 21, and girls until age 26. Also, men who have sex with men or who have a weakened immune system should continue to get the HPV vaccine until age 26. The vaccine works best when you finish the series completely, which is all three shots. Ideally you would do that over a six-month period. If you can complete the series by the child's 13th birthday, it seems to have a stronger effect in preventing any HPV viruses.

The vaccine, generally given as a series of three shots over a six-month period, is typically recommended for girls at about the age of 11, says Kellie Ernzen Kruger, M.D., internal medicine-pediatrics specialist at UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica. “Ideally, we want to vaccinate before the onset of any sexual activity,” Dr. Kruger explains.

Even for nonimmunized older girls and young women who might have been exposed to the human papillomavirus (HPV) through sexual activity or who know they are HPV positive, it is unlikely that they have all of the strains the vaccine prevents; thus, the vaccine is recommended for them as well. More recently it has been recommended for pre-adolescent boys as well. Dr. Kruger notes that the vaccine is considered highly safe and causes no significant side effects.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination is recommended for preteen girls and boys at age 11 or 12 years, and for girls ages 13 through 26 years and boys ages 13 through 21 years who have not yet been vaccinated.

HPV vaccines are given in a series of three shots over six months. For the best protection against the most dangerous types of HPV, it is very important to get all three shots long before being exposed. Someone can be exposed to HPV through many kinds of sexual activity, not just through “sex.” It’s important not to wait until sexual activity starts to give the vaccine; HPV infection can happen even the first time someone becomes sexually active.

The presence of the CDC logo and CDC content on this page should not be construed to imply endorsement by the U.S. government of any commercial products or services, or to replace the advice of a medical professional. The mark “CDC” is licensed under authority of the PHS.

Dr. Diane Harper
Health Education Specialist

The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine can be given to girls as young as 9, but it's not always smart to give the shot this early. Learn why by watching this video in which HPV expert Dr. Diane Harper discusses the ideal age range for women to receive the HPV vaccine.

Continue Learning about HPV



Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted disease that can sometimes cause genital warts. Certain types of HPV can also cause cancer in some individuals. Some people never know they have HPV at all, since symptoms arent ...

always noticeable. If you are sexually active, you are at risk for contracting HPV. About 50% of people that have sex acquire HPV in their lifetime, but far less than that will ever develop genital warts. If you are between 9 and 26 and want to reduce your risk of getting HPV, talk to your doctor about the HPV vaccination.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.