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What is HPV?

HPV stands for human papillomavirus. HPV is a group of viruses that can cause cervical cancer and genital warts.

There are many different types of HPV. Some types of high-risk HPV that you get on your cervix can cause cervical cancer.

Most HPV infections do not cause any symptoms or health problems. Usually, your body gets rid of HPV in the same way it gets rid of a cold. Sometimes HPV stays in the body for a longer time. If this happens, it can start to cause changes and damage the cells of the cervix. When these cells start to change, they can sometimes become cervical cancer.

How do people get HPV?

HPV is a very common sexually transmitted infection (STI).

Usually, HPV is spread through skin-to-skin contact of the cervix, vagina, penis, and anus. However, people can get HPV without having sex. For example, someone can get HPV by touching the genitals of someone else who has the virus and then touching their own genitals.

What is the HPV vaccine?

HPV vaccines help protect against the types of HPV that can cause cervical cancer.

There are two different HPV vaccines that help protect against HPV infections: Cervarix® and Gardasil®. Both of these vaccines protect against HPV types 16 and 18, the two kinds of HPV that most commonly cause cervical cancer. Gardasil® also protects against types 6 and 11, which can cause genital warts.

  • Both HPV vaccines are 3 shots that are given over 6 months.
  • Both vaccines protect against the two types of HPV that cause cervical cancer.

The HPV vaccine protects against the most dangerous types of HPV. However, it does not protect a woman from all the different types of HPV that can cause cervical cancer. Women who have been vaccinated will still need to get a Pap test.

Who should get the HPV vaccine?

HPV vaccine can be given to females and males ages 9-26.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that girls and boys get the vaccine when they are 11 or 12 years old. The vaccine works best if given before they become sexually active. However, it is recommended that that females ages 11-26 and males ages 11-21 get the vaccine, and it is approved for girls and boys as young as 9. Both Cervarix® and Gardasil® are approved for girls and women. Only Gardasil® is approved for boys and men.

Click here for CDC’s 2014 adolescent vaccine recommendations

Is the HPV vaccine safe?

Yes. HPV vaccines are safe and effective.

Both HPV vaccines were tested in thousands of people around the world. These studies showed no serious side effects from the vaccines. The most common side effect is pain or soreness where the shot was given. As with all vaccines, the CDC and FDA continue to monitor the safety of these vaccines very carefully.

Is a Pap test still recommended after getting an HPV vaccine?

Yes. Women who have gotten the HPV vaccine still need to get regular Pap tests. When vaccinated girls get older, they will also need to get regular Pap tests.

The HPV vaccine protects against the most dangerous types of HPV, which cause about 70% of cervical cancer. However, the HPV vaccine does not protect a woman from all the types of HPV that can cause cervical cancer. Women who have been vaccinated still need to get a Pap test. Visit the Screening – Where To Go page to find places near you that offer free or low-cost Pap tests to women who qualify.

Does my child qualify for free or low-cost HPV vaccine?

Many pre-teens and adolescents in North Carolina can get free or low-cost HPV vaccination.

Your child’s health insurance might cover HPV vaccination.

Your child might be eligible for a program called Vaccines for Children (VFC) that provides free or low-cost vaccines to those who qualify. Visit the HPV Vaccination – Where To Go page for more information on the VFC program and providers.

Where can I get the HPV vaccine?

You can get the HPV vaccine at doctor’s offices and health agencies across the state.

Ask your child’s health care provider for the HPV vaccine or contact a local Vaccines for Children (VFC) provider in your area. Visit the HPV Vaccination – Where To Go page for more information on the VFC program and providers.

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Cervical cancer can be prevented through screening and HPV vaccination. This site aims to help connect women and girls who are uninsured or underinsured to free or low-cost screening and vaccination services available in North Carolina.
El cáncer cervical puede prevenirse con la vacuna contra el Virus del Papiloma Humano (VPH) y a través de la detección temprana con la prueba de Papanicolaou. Esta página de internet tiene el fin de ayudar a conectar a mujeres y niñas que no tienen seguro médico (o con un seguro que es insuficiente), con servicios de vacunación y pruebas de Papanicolaou gratuitos o de bajo costo disponibles en Carolina del Norte.
Free and low-cost cervical cancer screening (the Pap test) is available in North Carolina for women who qualify.
En Carolina del Norte hay pruebas de detección temprana del cáncer cervical (prueba de Papanicolaou) gratuitas, o de bajo costo, para las mujeres que cumplan con ciertos requisitos.
HPV vaccine is available for little or no cost in North Carolina for adolescents who qualify.
En Carolina del Norte la vacuna del VPH está disponible a bajo o ningún costo para los niños y las niñas que cumplan con ciertos requisitos.