HPV vaccine

Medically Reviewed by Dr Sravya, MBBS, MS 


I want to protect my child from all diseases is a wish of every mother, and vaccines are the shields that every mother should get for their child. HPV vaccine is one such vaccine that prevents a host of infections and cancers. However, due to high costs and less awareness of the vaccine, people don’t take it at the correct age.

Infections by HPV and how they spread

HPV vaccine

The human papillomavirus (HPV) is a DNA virus from the Papillomaviridae family. There are more than 200 types of HPV. Around 40 types of these viruses affect the genital area, mouth, and throat. The other types of HPV cause hand warts or plantar warts (warts on feet). Warts are cauliflower-shaped, small or large, raised or flat skin growths with black dots over them. They affect the cutaneous (skin) or mucosal (inner lining of the body passages or cavities) tissues.

HPV infection is the most common and contagious STI(sexually transmitted infection). It is generally spread through direct skin-to-skin contact with an infected person, and oral sex with an infected person.

It can be transmitted from an infected person’s genital to the mouth and throat by biting nails or through cuts or scrapes in the skin. An infected mother can transmit the infection to the baby born during vaginal birth or while breastfeeding the baby.

1. Cervical cancer :

Cancer of the cervix(lower end of the uterus) is termed cervical cancer. The cervical cavity is the lowermost part of the uterus. This cancer mostly progresses silently and doesn’t show any early signs and symptoms. It is one of the major causes of cancer mortality in women. Early detection and prevention is the key to reducing cancer mortality. HPV infections are the causative agents for cervical cancer, and therefore, to prevent it, the HPV vaccine should be taken at an appropriate age.

2. Symptoms of an HPV infection:

The symptoms appear years after getting infected, and most of the time, an HPV infection is symptom-free, and they don’t turn into cancer. A person might get infected and cured on their own by the body’s immunity. In some cases, the infection shows in the form of various types of warts. Following are the different types of warts that can be found in an HPV-infected person:

(i) Common warts :

These appear on fingers or hands and are usually painless. They are small, rough growths with black dots. The black dots indicate clotted blood vessels. It usually disappears in two to six months without any treatment. If they are painful or they are creating discomfort to a person in regular activities, then he can choose to remove them surgically.

(ii) Genital warts :

It is the most common symptom of an HPV infection. Almost every individual gets infected by at least 1 type of HPV infection during their sexually active life. These warts might be very tiny or they can cluster to appear like raised, cauliflower-shaped growths, brown or pink. In women, genital warts are found in the vagina, vulva (part of genitals outside the body), anus, anal canal, and cervix (lowest part of the uterus connecting the vagina). In men, these warts are found on the tip or shaft of the penis, scrotum (sac-like structures situated behind the penis), and anus.

(iii) Warts on feet:

These are warts that appear on the soles of the feet, especially on the heels and the area under the toes, and are also known as plantar warts. They are painful while walking.

(iv) Flat warts :

HPV types 3, 10, 48, and 29 cause flat warts. They are very small, pink, brown, or yellow-colored lesions found on the face, hands, and legs. These warts are more found in children and teenagers than in adults; they are also known as juvenile warts.

3. Preventive measures:

First and foremost is getting vaccinated with the HPV vaccine. Increasing awareness amongst people about the HPV infection and its serious complications.

We already know that HPV is mostly sexually transmitted or transmitted from direct skin-to-skin contact. Therefore, protection consists of no sex or safer sex. Methods for practicing safer sex include the use of condoms and a dental dam(thin latex sheet which acts as a barrier between mouth and vagina or anus).

Getting tested for sexually transmitted diseases regularly, as HPV infections are mostly symptom-free.

Introduction to the HPV vaccine

The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is a vaccine to protect us from cervical cancer, vaginal and vulvar cancer, anal cancer, and mouth, throat, head, and neck cancers. It also prevents genital warts and sexually transmitted diseases. Due to a lack of awareness and the high cost of the vaccine, cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in India.

1. HPV vaccine for women or men:

As mentioned above, the HPV vaccine protects us against a host of infections and cancers, and therefore, both men and women must get vaccinated. In India, the HPV vaccine is currently only administered to women, as cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in India. In countries like the US, the HPV vaccine is administered to both men and women.

2. Types of HPV vaccines:

There are three types of HPV vaccines, namely:
1. 9-valent HPV vaccine (Gardasil 9,9vHPV)
2. Quadrivalent HPV vaccine (Gardasil,4vHPV)
3. Bivalent HPV vaccine (Cervarix,2Vhpv)
These vaccines protect against HPV type 16 and 18 infections that cause most HPV cancers. In India, only quadrivalent and bivalent HPV vaccines are available.

3. Cervarix: HPV vaccine for cervical cancer:

The Cervarix vaccine is only for women, while the other two vaccines are administered to both men and women. Cervarix prevents cervical cancer when administered at the age of 10 to 26 before getting exposed to HPV infection. Cervarix taken after getting exposed to HPV infection will not prevent cervical cancers. Cervarix HPV vaccine is an immunization specifically developed to safeguard against HPV infection and cervical cancer.

4. The right age to get the HPV vaccine:

This vaccine is recommended for children aged 11–12 years. It can be administered at an early age of 9 years as well. Those who take the HPV vaccine before 15 years of age need only two doses six months apart. Vaccination for children between the ages of 15 and 26 needs to be given in three doses. Vaccination for those above 26 years of age provides less benefit as most of them are already exposed to HPV infection. They need to consult a doctor to discuss their risk of infection and the benefits of the vaccine.

5. How does the HPV vaccine work?

HPV vaccine increases the body’s immunity and prepares the antibodies to fight against the infection-causing human papillomaviruses (HPV).

6. What is the cost of the HPV vaccine in India?

The vaccine costs around Rs- 2000–Rs- 3500. The high cost of the HPV vaccine is a major reason people are not taking it. On January 23, 2023, a made-in-India HPV vaccine named Cervavac was launched.

Side effects

Usually, this vaccine doesn’t have any side effects, but some people might experience mild side effects such as:

Teenagers, especially, should remain seated after vaccination for 15 minutes to prevent any injury from fainting.

1. Who should not take the HPV vaccine?

If you have taken the first dose but it didn’t suit you or you had some allergic reactions to it, then you should not take the second dose.
If you are allergic to yeast, then you should not take this vaccine, as one of the contents of this vaccine is yeast.
Pregnant women shouldn’t take the HPV vaccine, as it can be risky for the unborn baby.
Avoid the HPV vaccine if you are ill or have any serious health issues.
People over 26 years old must talk to the doctor and discuss the risk of infection and the benefits of the vaccine.
If you’ve already got an HPV infection, then the vaccine won’t prevent you from getting further infections.


HPV infections are mostly symptom-free, and therefore, to prevent the spread of HPV infections and their complications, we need to be more aware, take the vaccine at the correct age, and use precaution and protection for safer sex. Also, get regular checks done and consult your doctor if you find any symptoms to prevent serious complications like cancers.

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, a woman needs to get regular tests and checks done, as the HPV vaccine does not act against all types of HPV.

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