HPV Home > What Is the HPV Vaccine Used For?

Gardasil and Cervarix (HPV vaccines) are used to help prevent infections from specific types of human papillomavirus (HPV). Both are licensed to prevent HPV types 16 and 18 (the types responsible for about 70 percent of cervical cancers); Gardasil also protects against types 6 and 11 (which are responsible for about 90 percent of genital wart cases). Keep in mind that although the vaccine can help prevent these conditions, it cannot cure or treat them.

What Is the HPV Vaccine Used For?

There are two different HPV vaccines (Gardasil® and Cervarix®). Both have been licensed to treat conditions caused by certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV for short).
 
Specifically, Gardasil is approved to protect against the following conditions in women and girls between the ages of 9 and 26:
 
  • Cervical cancer
  • Vaginal cancer
  • Vulvar cancer
  • Anal cancer and abnormal or precancerous anal lesions 
  • Abnormal or precancerous cervical lesions
  • Abnormal or precancerous vaginal lesions
  • Abnormal or precancerous vulvar lesions
  • Genital warts.
     
Gardasil is also approved to prevent genital warts, anal cancer, and abnormal or precancerous anal lesions in boys and men age 9 through 26.
 
Cervarix is approved to prevent cervical cancer and precancerous cervical lesions in girls and women between the ages of 9 and 25.
 

What Is HPV?

Human papillomavirus is a very common type of virus, infecting over 20 million people in the United States. There are actually over 100 types of HPV. For over 30 types, HPV transmission occurs through sexual contact, making it one of the most common types of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). In fact, 50 percent of sexually active people catch HPV during their lifetime.
 
HPV symptoms will depend on which HPV virus a person is infected with. Some types of HPV cause no symptoms, while others may cause warts (skin-colored growths) on the hands or feet. Other HPV types cause genital warts or cervical cancer.
 
Treatment for conditions caused by HPV may include removal of the warts or cancerous cells. However, there is currently no HPV treatment that will prevent the virus from causing problems in the future.
 
There are many different types of human papillomavirus, and the human papillomavirus vaccine does not protect against all of them. However, the vaccine does protect against a few important human papillomavirus 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).
 
Keep in mind that the HPV vaccine is not an HPV cure or treatment. It is used for prevention. However, because a human papillomavirus infection cannot be cured, HPV prevention is very important.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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