Frequently asked questions

Got questions? We’ve got the answers! If you still have unanswered questions after reading All about HPV and checking out the Learn and Explore pages, take a look at the questions below for more answers to frequently asked questions.

How do you get HPV?

HPV is usually transmitted through intimate sexual contact between partners. This includes skin-to-skin contact or touching the genitals of a partner (penetration is not required) or during genital, anal or oral sex.

HPV can also be transmitted by sharing contaminated sex toys. If sex toys are to be shared they can be used with condoms, as long as the condom is changed each time a different partner uses the toy.

HPV can also rarely be transmitted during childbirth from the infected mother to the baby.

Can men get HPV too?

Yes. Anyone who is sexually active is at risk.

If I’m a female over 45 years old or a male over 26 years old, can I still get HPV?

Yes. Anyone who is sexually active is at risk.

The age groups associated with the HPV vaccine relates to the groups they were tested on. It is not an indication of the age group for people at risk of HPV.

How can I tell if my partner has HPV?

You can’t. HPV often doesn’t present any signs or symptoms, which means that you won’t be able to tell if your partner is infected or not.

Where can I get the HPV vaccine?

Most people will get the vaccine from their doctor in the form of a prescription. Although some doctors’ offices and clinics may have the vaccine on hand, it is more likely that your doctor will give you a prescription that you will have to take to a pharmacy. Some pharmacies offer vaccination services, but if they don’t, you will need to go to a nurse or a doctor with the vaccine to have it injected. The cost of the vaccine varies, usually around $300 – $500 for the complete set of doses, but may be covered by some health insurance plans.

The HPV vaccine is available free of charge in certain provinces and territories, and is included within school-based vaccination programs. Check with your provincial health authority for more information on the costs and availability of HPV vaccination in your area.

Are HPV vaccines safe?

The Government of Canada has approved HPV vaccination for use in Canada. This decision was based on many clinical trials and studies showing that it is safe. Over 50 million doses of the vaccine have been given in North America. Other than minor side effects (like pain from the needle), people who get the vaccine are not at risk for major complications.

There is no virus in these types of vaccines, which means that you are in no danger of getting HPV when you get vaccinated. The vaccine does not contain any live or dead virus, nor does it contain any preservatives, latex or antibiotics, thimerosal or mercury.

HPV vaccines are not recommended for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, people who have certain blood conditions, or people who have an immune disorder. Speak to your health-care professional to see if you are the right candidate for vaccination or to discuss any concerns or questions you may have.

How does the HPV vaccine work?

The HPV vaccine contains a fluid that has tiny empty particles that mimic HPV but do not cause infection or cancer like real HPV might. After you get vaccinated, your body quickly starts making antibodies and white blood cells to fight against the types of HPV it protects against. Vaccination triggers your immune system to fight the fake HPV, making your body more prepared to fight a real HPV infection if and when it occurs.

HPV vaccination requires two or three injections in individuals younger than 15 and three injections in individuals 15 and older, which must be given by a health-care professional. After receiving the first injection, you should plan to get the second injection two months later, and the third injection four months after that. In the case of only two injections, you should plan to get them at least 6 months apart and within 12-15 months. You must receive all doses, whether two or three, to be sure that you are protected from HPV.

About HPVInfo.ca

HPVinfo.ca delivers evidence-based information about the human papillomavirus. All material on this site is developed and reviewed by health-care professionals and is based on guidelines from the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC). HPVinfo.ca is administered by the SOGC, Canada’s leading authority on sexual and reproductive health.