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How Does the HPV Vaccine Work?

The HPV vaccine protects against certain types of HPV infections. It works by stimulating the immune system to produce antibodies to fight off the HPV virus. This virus can be sexually transmitted and causes:
There are many different types of HPV virus, and the vaccine does not protect against all of them. However, it does protect against a few important HPV types. Both Gardasil and Cervarix protect against types 16 and 18 (the types responsible for about 70 percent of cervical cancers), and Gardasil also protects against types 6 and 11 (which are responsible for about 90 percent of genital wart cases).

When and How to Take It

Some general considerations for when and how to take the HPV vaccine include the following:
  • The HPV vaccine is an injection that your healthcare provider gives you.
  • The vaccine is given as a series of three injections:
    • First injection: At any time
    • Second injection: Two months after the first injection (for Gardasil) or one month after the first injection (for Cervarix)
    • Third injection: Six months after the first injection.
  • The HPV vaccine is injected into a muscle in the upper arm or upper thigh.
  • For the vaccine to work properly, you have to get all three injections. It will not work as well if you do not get all three injections.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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