Man reading over vaccine paperwork and asking provider how effective the HPV vaccine is

How Effective Is the HPV Vaccine?

Written on October 27, 2023 by Amy Harris, MPH, RN. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

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Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI), so it makes sense that you want to protect the best you can.[1] Thanks to modern-day science, there is a safe and highly effective vaccine to reduce your risk of HPV infection and the genital warts and cancer an HPV infection can cause. Remember the saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?” Well, vaccines are one of the best kinds of medicines because they prevent you from getting infected in the first place. Here, we’ll review the effectiveness of the HPV vaccine, as well as the recommended vaccination schedule.

Why Should You Get The HPV Vaccine?

Even if you already know what HPV is, you may still have questions about HPV prevention for men and women. One question might be, “Why, if HPV goes away in 90 percent of infected people, should you bother getting vaccinated?” Or, “Why, if most people will have HPV at some point in their lives, do you need to get the vaccine?”[2,3]

Good questions. The answer is that each year in the United States, HPV causes 46,711 new cases of cancer that the HPV vaccine could have prevented: 25,689 among women and 21,022 among men.[4] Here are some other reasons why you might want to consider getting this jab if you haven’t already [1,2,3,5,6,7]:

  1. The current HPV vaccine protects you against nine types of HPV, including the seven most likely to cause cancer (16,18,31,33,45,52,58).
  2. It also prevents genital warts by blocking infection with HPV types 6 and 11, responsible for 90% of genital warts.
  3. The HPV vaccine protects you against the two human papillomavirus (HPV) types (16 and 18) responsible for nearly 50% of high-grade cervical precancers in people with cervices.
  4. There is currently no recommended screening for other HPV-caused cancers except for cervical cancer — you are at higher risk for throat, anal, vulvar, penile, or vaginal cancer if you don’t get the HPV vaccine.
  5. The vaccine could boost your protection if other conditions weaken your immune system. These conditions include smoking, HIV/AIDS, or taking some medications like steroids.
  6. Vaccine protection lasts at least ten years, and most likely even longer, getting you through the ages when you are at greatest risk of getting an HPV vaccine.

How Effective Is The HPV Vaccine?

The HPV vaccine can potentially prevent 90 percent (nine out of 10) of cancers caused by HPV.[1] It is so effective that since 2006, when the first HPV vaccine was recommended to prevent infection with four HPV types, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports an 86 percent decrease in HPV infections in female teens aged 14 to 19 years and a 71 percent reduction in women in their early 20s.[1]

The HPV vaccine is much more effective than other vaccines we line up for, like the flu vaccine, whose effectiveness varies year to year, anywhere from 40-60 percent.[8]

Research has also shown that fewer teens and young adults are getting genital warts and that cervical precancers are decreasing since HPV vaccines have been used in the United States.[7] Other studies show reduced rates of oral and anal HPV-associated cancers with HPV vaccination.[9,10]

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Timing Matters When Talking about HPV Vaccine Effectiveness

The majority of people are infected with HPV shortly after they become sexually active.[2] The HPV vaccine is most effective in preventing HPV if you receive it before becoming sexually active. Research has shown that receiving the vaccine at a young age isn't linked to an earlier start of sexual activity.[11] Current U.S. recommendations are that the quadrivalent HPV vaccine should be offered as a routine vaccination (like the chicken pox vaccine) [7]:

  1. To all 11- and 12-year-olds, but as early as age 9
  2. For everyone up until age 26 (if not vaccinated at a younger age)
  3. People ages 27-45 not previously vaccinated for HPV after consultation with a health care provider

Timing also matters because there are two doses of the vaccine. Unless you get both doses, you won’t be fully protected. The CDC and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommend [7]:

  1. Two doses of HPV vaccine before your 15th birthday
  2. Have your second dose no sooner than 6 months after the first dose (up to 12 months after your first)

For people starting the vaccine series after they are 15 years old or who are immunocompromised (have a weakened immune system and are therefore at greater risk for HPV infection), the CDC and ACIP recommend [7]:

  1. Three doses of the HPV vaccine administered at 0, 1–2, and 6-month intervals
  2. Immunocompromised persons (including those with HIV infection) aged 9 through 26 years should have three doses

Even If You Already Have HPV, The HPV Vaccine Protects You From Additional Infections

So, just because you’ve had HPV once doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get the vaccine (if you haven’t already had it). Having HPV does not make you immune to getting HPV again. There are also over 150 HPV types, 40 of which can be transmitted sexually.[13]

Can the HPV Vaccine Treat Existing HPV Infections?

Unfortunately not. If you have HPV now, that question is probably at the top of your list, right after “Does HPV go away?” Fortunately, 80-90 percent of all HPV infections go away on their own, usually within two years.[14]

The current HPV vaccine available in the United States, the Gardasil 9®, cannot treat any types of HPV you already have. Unfortunately, unless you have an in-office HPV test or an at-home High-Risk HPV test for those with cervices like the one offered by EverlyWell, you won’t know which types of HPV you have. You also won’t know when and if you have cleared the infection.

Protect Yourself and Your Partners by Getting the HPV Vaccine

Taking care of your health sometimes involves a sore arm or two — because vaccines are a safe and effective way to prevent getting sick in the first place. You care about your health and well-being. Getting your HPV vaccination on time and on schedule before becoming sexually active might just help keep HPV, genital warts, and cancer out of your bedroom and your life.

Everlywell believes in the power of understanding how to stay healthy. That’s why we make sexual healthcare convenient, simple, and accessible. From virtual STD consults, at-home tests for high-risk HPV, and even treatment for some STDs online for those who qualify, EverlyWell is committed to helping you prioritize your sexual health and well-being.

Does the HPV Vaccine Help If You Are Already Infected?

Can You Get HPV From Kissing?

Can HPV Cause A False Positive Herpes Test?


  1. HPV vaccine safety and effectiveness. CDC. Published. Accessed October 8, 2023.
  2. Cervical cancer. WHO. Published February 22, 2023. Accessed October 10, 2023.
  3. Human Papillomavirus (HPV). Planned Parenthood. Accessed October 10, 2023.
  4. How many cancers are linked with HPV each year? CDC. Published September 12, 2023. Accessed October 12, 2023.
  5. Joura EA, Giuliano AR, Iversen OE, et al. A 9-valent HPV vaccine against infection and intraepithelial neoplasia in women. N Engl J Med. 2015;372(8):711-723. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa1405044
  6. Kamolratanakul S, Pitisuttithum P. Human Papillomavirus Vaccine Efficacy and Effectiveness against Cancer. Vaccines (Basel). 2021;9(12):1413. Published 2021 Nov 30. doi:10.3390/vaccines9121413
  7. Human Papillomavirus (HPV) ACIP Vaccination Recommendations. ACIP/CDC. Published November 21, 2014. Accessed October 10, 2023.
  8. Vaccine effectiveness: How well do flu vaccines work? CDC. Published February 8, 2023. Accessed October 11, 2023.
  9. Chaturvedi AK, Graubard BI, Broutian T, et al. Effect of Prophylactic Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccination on Oral HPV Infections Among Young Adults in the United States. J Clin Oncol. 2018;36(3):262-267. doi:10.1200/JCO.2017.75.0141
  10. Kreimer AR, González P, Katki HA, et al. Efficacy of a bivalent HPV 16/18 vaccine against anal HPV 16/18 infection among young women: a nested analysis within the Costa Rica Vaccine Trial [published correction appears in Lancet Oncol. 2011 Nov;12(12):1096]. Lancet Oncol. 2011;12(9):862-870. doi:10.1016/S1470-2045(11)70213-3
  11. The HPV vaccine: Who needs it, How it works. Mayo Clinic. Published August 25, 2023. Accessed October 10, 2023.
  12. Reuschenbach M, Doorbar J, Del Pino M, et al. Prophylactic HPV vaccines in patients with HPV-associated diseases and cancer. Vaccine. 2023;41(42):6194-6205. doi:10.1016/j.vaccine.2023.08.047
  13. Huber J, Mueller A, Sailer M, Regidor PA. Human papillomavirus persistence or clearance after infection in reproductive age. What is the status? Review of the literature and new data of a vaginal gel containing silicate dioxide, citric acid, and selenite. Womens Health (Lond). 2021;17:17455065211020702. doi:10.1177/17455065211020702
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