Two HPV vaccines are available to help protect against certain types of human papillomavirus infections. One vaccine is for girls and young women aged 10 to 25 years and helps protect against HPV types 16 and 18. Another vaccine is for girls and women aged 9 to 45 years and boys and young men aged 9 to 26 years and helps protect against HPV types 6, 11, 16, and 18. Protection against these types of HPV may prevent certain diseases. Certain high-risk types of HPV can lead to:
- cervical cancer
- cancer of the vagina or vulva (the outside of the female genital area)
- abnormal or precancerous cells (that may later turn into cancer) on the cervix, vagina, vulva, or anus
Other low-risk types of HPV lead to genital warts. They're called "low-risk" because they are unlikely to cause cancer.
HPV is also the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI for short, also known by the older term sexually transmitted disease or STD) in the world. 3 out of 4 sexually active people will become infected with HPV at some point in their lives, and most are infected before the age of 25.
Although there are over 100 different types of HPV, most of these cause only minor health problems. Most types of HPV cause no symptoms and go away on their own. But about 40 types of HPV that affect the genital area can lead to health problems described above. To learn more about the health conditions caused by HPV, read "HPV and the diseases it can cause."
Health Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommends the HPV vaccine to be used in females between 9 and 13 years of age, before the start of any sexual activity. The vaccine is divided into 3 doses within 6 months.
See the immunization schedule for your province or territory, or talk to your child's health care professional to find out when your child should receive their doses. Remember that it is very important for your child to receive all doses on time for maximum protection.
To learn more about the HPV vaccine, read "Facts about HPV vaccination."