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HPV virus and vaccination

What is HPV?

The human papillomavirus (HPV) causes most cases of cervical cancer, as well as some cancers of the anus, vagina, vulva, penis, head and neck. Being vaccinated against HPV can help to prevent cervical cancer, as well as other cancers caused by HPV.

There are over 100 different types of HPV, some of which are more likely to lead to the development of cancer than others. About 40 types of HPV are known as genital HPV, as they affect the anal and genital area. Genital HPV is spread by intimate skin to skin contact and skin to mucosa contact, including sexual intercourse. HPV infection is most common in the early years of sexual activity or with a new sexual partner. Both men and women can get HPV. Most women and men will have had at least one type of genital HPV in their lifetime.

More than 70% of cervical cancers in Australia are caused by two of the most common types of HPV (HPV16 and HPV18). HPV16 is also found in 90% of non-cervical cancers associated with HPV infection.

Vaccinating against HPV

Gardasil®9 is a HPV vaccine. It protects against seven high-risk HPV types (16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58) which cause about 90% of cervical cancers in women and at least 90% of all HPV-related cancers in men. It also protects against two low-risk HPV types (6 and 11) which cause 90% of genital warts. Being vaccinated has the potential to prevent most cervical cancers and several other cancers, as well as most cases of genital warts.

In February 2023, Australia changed its schedule for the HPV vaccine Gardasil®9 on the National Immunisation Program from two doses of vaccine to a single dose of vaccine for most people.

People aged 12 to 25 living in Australia can still receive the HPV vaccine for free under the National Immunisation Program. If you book through a GP clinic the vaccine is free, but you may have to pay an appointment fee.

The vaccine is free for Western Australian children in Year 8 as part of the school-based National Immunisation Program. It’s best to be vaccinated at this age, as getting the HPV vaccine before first sexual contact protects a person over their entire life. It is important that parents give consent for their child (or children) to receive the vaccination. This video can help parents to talk to their children about the vaccination to help them understand it’s importance.

If your child has missed out on getting their HPV vaccine at school, they will need to “catch up” as soon as possible. This can occur at your GP clinic, pharmacy or local immunisation clinic.

Gardasil®9 is also available from health care professionals for people not eligible for the National Immunisation Program.

If you are interested in being vaccinated against HPV, speak with your doctor. Be aware there could be a cost for the appointment as well as the vaccination.

Find out more about the HPV vaccine and the vaccination program in WA.

It is important to remember that women who have had the HPV vaccine still need participate in regular cervical screening.

The National Cervical Screening Program provides free screening for cervical cancer.