What is the HPV vaccine?

The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine – also known as the cervical cancer vaccine – protects against two high-risk types of HPV. These are types 16 and 18, which are responsible for 70% of all cervical cancers in Australia[1].

There are currently two types of HPV vaccine used in Australia:

  • A quadrivalent vaccine (known as Gardasil), protects against four types of HPV, including high-risk types 16 and 18. This vaccine also protects against HPV types 6 and 11, which cause 90% of genital warts, but do not cause cervical cancer. It has been used in the school-based program since 2008.
    A new vaccine (Gardasil 9) will be available through the school-based program in 2018. It will protect against nine types of HPV, including those in the quadrivalent vaccine. The types of HPV that Gardasil 9 protects against cause around 90% of cervical cancers.
  • There is a bivalent vaccine (known as Cervarix) which protects against HPV types 16 and 18 only.

[1] Brotherton, Julia ML. How Much Cervical Cancer in Australia is Vaccine Preventable? A Meta-Analysis. Vaccine. 10 January 2008, Vol. 26, 2, pp. 250-256

Need to know

The HPV vaccine does not protect against all types of HPV.

HPV-vaccinated women still need to have a Cervical Screening Test every 5 years.

Why do HPV-vaccinated women still need a Cervical Screening Test every five years?

While the HPV vaccine is very effective at protecting against the two most common cervical cancer-causing types of HPV, it doesn’t protect against all types of HPV that can lead to cervical cancer.

This means that both HPV-vaccinated and unvaccinated women need to have regular Cervical Screening Tests (the Pap test replacement*) to reduce their risk of developing cervical cancer.

The HPV Vaccine and Cervical Screening Test work together to prevent cervical cancer.

When is the best time to have the HPV vaccine?

The best time to have the HPV vaccination is before a person becomes sexually active.

This is because the HPV vaccine is not effective against an HPV infection that is already in the body, so it’s best to vaccinate before potential exposure to the virus through sexual contact.

How many doses of the HPV vaccine are needed?

To be fully effective, three doses of the HPV vaccine are required.

What is the HPV School Vaccination Program?

In Australia, girls and boys aged 12-13 are offered the HPV vaccine for free in schools.

Gardasil is used in the school-based vaccination program.

For more information about the Government’s school-based HPV vaccination program:

How can the HPV vaccine be accessed outside of the school program?

Other people can have the HPV vaccination through their GP. The cost of the vaccine is around $460 (this does not include the cost of the GP visit).