HPV vaccine

Also called human papilloma virus vaccine

Key points about HPV vaccine

  • The HPV vaccine protects against a virus that causes several cancers that can affect anyone.
  • HPV vaccine is also called Gardasil.
  • Find out about the vaccine and possible side effects.
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HPV vaccine helps protect against a virus that causes several cancers that can affect anyone. These include cancers of the cervix, vulva, vagina and anus in women, or cancers of the anus and penis in men, and possibly throat cancers for both men and women. The vaccine is also effective at preventing genital warts. 

  • The vaccine works by causing your body’s immune system to produce its own protection (antibodies) against the HPV types most likely to cause cancer or genital warts.
  • If an immunised person comes into contact with HPV, the antibodies in their blood will fight the virus and protect them against being infected.
  • It usually takes several weeks after vaccination to develop protection against HPV.  

Protection from the vaccine is long-lasting and is not expected to wear off over time.

In New Zealand, the HPV vaccine is available free for everyone aged 9–26 years. 

  • It is recommended to be given to children aged 11–12 years.
  • For children aged 9–14 years, the HPV vaccine is given as 2 doses, at least 5 months apart. This age group develops a stronger immune response than those vaccinated when they are older.
  • People aged 15 years and older will need 3 doses of the vaccine, spaced over 6 months.
  • Each dose is given as an injection into the muscle of your arm or leg.

Children are offered the vaccine at most schools, usually in Year 7 or 8. The vaccine is also available free from general practices and some other health centres.


(Te Whatu Ora, NZ, 2023)

People aged 27 years or older may still benefit from receiving a course of 3 HPV vaccine doses. If you have not started the course by age 27, you need to buy the vaccine doses through your family doctor or Family Planning Clinic.

The HPV vaccine is recommended in people aged 27 years and older who:

  • have had little previous exposure to HPV and are now likely to be exposed
  • are men who have sex with men
  • have HIV.

The use of the HPV vaccine is not recommended for the following people:

  • Anyone who has had a severe allergic reaction to yeast (one of the components of the vaccine) or to the vaccine previously.
  • Pregnant women should delay being vaccinated until after pregnancy. The safety of the vaccine in pregnancy is unknown.
  • If you have a fever or illness at the time of vaccination, let your doctor or nurse know before they give the vaccination.

Like all medicines, the HPV vaccine can cause side effects, although not everyone gets them. 

Side effects What should I do?
  • Pain, swelling or redness around the injection site 
  • This is quite common after having the vaccination.
  • It usually starts a few hours after getting the injection and settles within a few days.
  • Place a cold, wet cloth or ice pack where the injection was given. Leave it on for a short time. 
  • Don't rub the injection site
  • Tell your doctor if troublesome.
  • Read more After your immunisation(external link)
  • Fever
  • This is quite common for the first 1 or 2 days after receiving the injection and usually settles within a few days.
  • Dress lightly, with a single layer of clothing.
  • Don't wrap your child in a blanket.
  • Keep the room cool and use a fan.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • The routine use of paracetamol is not recommended following vaccinations, but may be used if your child is miserable or distressed.
  • Tell your doctor if the fever persists.
  • Read more After your immunisation(external link)
  • Headache
  • Nausea (feeling sick)
  • These are quite common for the first 1 or 2 days after receiving the injection.
  • It usually settles within a few days.
  • Rest and drink plenty of fluids.
  • The routine use of paracetamol is not recommended following vaccinations, but may be used for relief of severe discomfort.
  • Tell your doctor if troublesome.
  • Read more After your immunisation(external link)
  • Fainting
  • This is more common in adolescent girls.
  • To prevent fainting-related injuries, you should sit or lie down during HPV vaccination.
  • Signs of an allergic reaction such as skin rash, itching, blisters, peeling skin, swelling of your face, lips or mouth, or problems breathing
  • Allergic reactions to HPV vaccine are very rare.
  • You will be asked to wait for 20 minutes after the vaccination to ensure there is no immediate allergic reaction.
  • If you develop these signs within a few days of the vaccination, tell your doctor immediately or phone Healthline 0800 611 116.
Did you know that you can report a side effect to a medicine to CARM (Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring)? Report a side effect to a product(external link)

The best place to go for vaccinations is your family medical clinic. They have your medical records and can check to see if you’ve already had a particular vaccination. Either your doctor or a nurse can give the vaccination.

If you don’t have a family doctor, you can go to one of the after-hour medical clinics. Phone them first to make sure they can help you with the vaccination you need.

You can find a clinic near you on the Healthpoint(external link) website. Put in your address and region, and under Select a service, click on GPs/Accident & Urgent Medical Care.

Vaccines on the National Immunisation Schedule are free. Other vaccines are funded only for people at particular risk of disease. You can choose to pay for vaccines that you are not eligible to receive for free.

The following links have more information on HPV vaccine. 

Gardasil 9 Questions and Answers(external link) Medsafe, NZ
Immunise against HPV(external link) Ministry of Health, NZ
Human papillomavirus(external link) The Immunisation Advisory Centre, NZ
Gardasil(external link) Medsafe Consumer Information, NZ
Preventing HPV cancers by vaccination(external link) The New Zealand HPV Project, 2017

  1. Gardasil 9(external link) The Immunisation Advisory Centre, NZ
  2. Human papilloma virus vaccines(external link) New Zealand Formulary
  3. Human papillomavirus (HPV)(external link) Immunisation Handbook NZ, 2020


Preventing HPV cancers by vaccination

The New Zealand HPV Project, 2023

5 questions to ask about your medications

5 questions to ask about your medications

Health Quality and Safety Commission, NZ, 2019

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Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist. Healthify is brought to you by Health Navigator Charitable Trust.

Reviewed by: Angela Lambie, Pharmacist, Auckland

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