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Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccine


Vaccination is the best protection against infections caused by HPVs This link opens a new window. and their complications.

The Cervarix and Gardasil vaccines protect against infections caused by HPV 16 and 18 and their complications. These 2 types of HPV are responsible for 70% of cervical cancers as well as other cancers in the genital area such as cancers of the vagina, the vulva, the penis and the anus.

Gardasil also protects against infections from HPV 6 and 11, which cause anal and genital warts, i.e. condylomas. Condylomas are the most frequent sexually transmissible infections in Canada. When someone is infected by an HPV, he or she often does not know because the infection goes undetected.

Objective of the HPV vaccination program

The objective of the vaccination program is to prevent cervical cancer and other illnesses associated with HPV.

Every year in Québec, an average of 281 women discover they have cervical cancer and 69 die of the disease. In reality, many more women are affected.

Around 53,000 women each year have to see a specialist for follow-up exams after a Pap test (a screening test for cancer of the cervix conducted during a gynecological exam) indicating abnormalities related to HPV. These clinical examinations can be unpleasant and stressful and may require several visits. In some cases, they can even be painful (biopsy, colposcopy, removal of part of the uterus, etc.) and impact the woman’s fertility.

Benefits of HPV vaccination

Vaccination has proven itself by reducing, even eradicating, certain serious diseases. The case of the HPV vaccine is no exception.

The HPV vaccine prevents, in particular, precancerous cervical lesions as well as genital warts (condylomata). Beyond the studies conducted on the efficacy of vaccines, this protection has been confirmed in countries where vaccination has been implemented for several years, such as Australia.

In Québec, vaccination against HPV is recommended for girls, since it is recognized as an effective and safe means of protection.

HPV vaccination program offered in Grade 4

Québec’s HPV vaccination program is offered to girls in elementary school Grade 4 for the following reasons:

  • The immune system responds best to the vaccine between the ages of 9 and 11.
  • The vaccine is most effective when the person is not already infected. Since infection usually occurs during the first years of sexual activity, it is preferable that girls be vaccinated before their first sexual relations.
  • There is already a vaccination program in Grade 4 against hepatitis B, thus avoiding undue hassle for parents.
  • In Grade 4, two doses of vaccine are sufficient. After the age of 14, three doses are required.

Number of doses required

More than one dose of the vaccine is required to obtain the best protection possible. Ideally, vaccination should be performed before the start of sexual activity. The vaccine is indicated even for someone who has already contracted an HPV infection. Vaccinated women should continue to follow the recommendations for testing for cervical cancer.

Duration of protection

Protection lasts for a number of years.

If necessary, a booster dose will be given later to prolong protection.

Studies are being conducted around the world to evaluate long-term protection.


Some symptoms may be caused by the vaccine, e.g. redness at the injection site. Other problems may occur by chance and are not related to the vaccine, e.g. cold, gastro, headache.

HPV vaccine is safe. Most reactions are harmless and do not last long.

The Nature and Frequency of Known Reactions to Vaccine

Frequency Possible reactions to the vaccine

In most cases
(more than 50% of people)

  • Pain at the injection site

Very often
(less than 50% of people)

  • Redness or swelling at the injection site

(less than 10% of people)

  • Itching at the injection site, fever, discomfort, joint pain

To date, more than 175 million doses of vaccine against HPV have been administered around the world.

Current data show no serious or unexpected effects related to this vaccine. No link has been established between the vaccine against HPV and any serious diseases or death.

As for all immunization programs, the monitoring of side effects is done through the Programme de surveillance passive des effets secondaires possiblement reliés à l’immunisation (ESPRI), established by the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux.

What to do After Vaccination

Tips to follow immediately following vaccination

Wait 15 minutes before leaving premises where vaccine is received. If an allergic reaction occurs, the symptoms will appear a few minutes after the vaccination.

If you feel side effects, immediately inform the person giving the vaccine. That person will be able to treat you immediately.

Tips to follow at home

If you experience redness, pain or swelling at the injection site, apply a cold, damp compress on it.

Use medication for fever or discomfort if needed.

When to Seek Medical Help

See a doctor if one of the following applies to you:

  • You experience serious and unusual symptoms
  • Your symptoms get worse instead of improving
  • Your symptoms last over 48 hours

Last update: November 3, 2015 11:37 AM

The information on this website by no means replaces the advice of a health professional. If you have questions regarding your health, contact Info-Santé 8-1-1 or see a health professional.

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