Do You Have to Be a Virgin to Get the HPV Vaccine?

It is a common misconception that you must be a virgin to get the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine Gardasil 9. This bit of misinformation may stem from the fact that the best time to get the HPV vaccine is before exposure to HPV through sexual activity. But that doesn't mean you have to be a virgin to benefit from the vaccine.

Even if you've already had sex and been exposed to the virus, the HPV vaccine can protect against the HPV strains you haven't been exposed to.

The only HPV vaccine available in the United States is Gardasil 9. Cervarix and Gardasil are available in other parts of the world.

A woman receiving a cervical cancer vaccine
BSIP / UIG / Getty Images

Who Should Get the HPV Vaccine

HPV vaccination is most effective in adolescents and young adults (ages 9 through 26). The HPV vaccine can help protect against disease-causing strains of HPV that can develop into cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancer cases. Because of its higher efficacy rates when administered earlier, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)-recommended target age to receive the vaccine is between 11 or 12 years of age—before most people become sexually active.

HPV mainly spreads through skin-to-skin contact during sexual intercourse. Importantly, you do not need to have penetrative sex to transmit HPV, so it can be easier to catch than other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

That said, the vaccines are U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved for use in people with vaginas to age 45. The CDC provisionally recommends the HPV vaccine for adults older than 27 if the healthcare provider deems there could be a benefit based on your history.

A 2020 guideline update for HPV vaccination from the American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends routine HPV vaccination begin at age 9 due to evidence that earlier initiation makes it more likely for vaccination to be happening on time on a wider scale. ACS does not recommend HPV vaccination after age 26 due to the decreased benefit and a vaccine shortage that is expected to continue for several years.

Regardless of Sexual Status

It is possible to be infected with HPV and still be a virgin. This is because it can be transmitted skin-to-skin (sexually and non-sexual contact), as well as through contact with fingers or the mouth. Because of this, even those who have not had sex would benefit from getting the HPV vaccine.

Males and Females

What most people don't know is that vaccination is highly recommended for young people with penises as well.

While people with vaginas are at risk for cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers, both people with penises and people with vaginas are at risk for contracting HPV. HPV is known to be a cause of anal cancer, oropharyngeal cancer, and genital warts—diseases that both people with penises and people with vaginas can face. Gardasil 9 has been shown to help protect against all three.

Gardasil 9 and Virginity

You can certainly get an HPV vaccine if you are a virgin. Your healthcare provider may inquire if you are sexually active as a general practice to ensure that you take the proper precautions to prevent STIs and pregnancy. As long as you fit the other criteria for the HPV vaccine, including age, your level of sexual activity is not of major concern.


There's a lot of misinformation about the HPV vaccine, one of which is that you must be a virgin to get the vaccine. This is not true. Anyone who meets the criteria, whether they have had sex or not, can get the vaccine.

Although the recommended age is typically before people become sexually active, it's approved for people up until age 45. This is because even if you have been infected with one strain of HPV, it provides you with protection against other strains. If you're interested in getting the HPV vaccine, talk with your healthcare provider about your options.

A Word From Verywell

There has been a lot of emotion surrounding the introduction of HPV vaccination for those who aren't yet sexually active. It's important to note, however, that most of those who are today asking if they need to be a virgin to get the HPV vaccine will be sexually active in just a short while. Whether or not you've been sexually active, taking the time to have an honest pre-sex discussion with your partner is important for more reasons than HPV.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can you get HPV even if you are both virgins?

    Yes, you can. HPV is transmitted via skin-to-skin contact. Even if both people are virgins, if one person has HPV, they can still transmit it via skin-to-skin, even if no sex takes place.

  • Do you need to get tested for HPV if you are a virgin?

    Although it's less likely that you would have HPV, it's a good idea to get tested for HPV. This is because it can be spread with skin-to-skin contact, so even if no sex has occurred, transmission can still happen.

  • Do you need parental consent to get the HPV vaccine?

    Parental consent varies by state and state legislation. Teens can get the vaccine without parental consent in states that do not require parental consent.

  • Should you wait to have sex after receiving the vaccine?

    The immune system takes time to build immunity, so you might have some immunity after one dose, but protection can vary among individuals. Your immunity to the HPV strains in the vaccine will be strongest starting 1-2 weeks after your last dose.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Genital HPV infection - fact sheet.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Human papillomavirus vaccination for adults: updated recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

  3. Saslow D, Andrews KS, Manassaram-Baptiste D, Smith RA, Fontham ET. Human papillomavirus vaccination 2020 guideline update: American Cancer Society guideline adaptation. CA Cancer J Clin. 2020;70(4):274-280. doi:10.3322/caac.21616

  4. Petca A, Borislavschi A, Zvanca ME, et al. Non-sexual HPV transmission and role of vaccination for a better future. Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine. 2020; 186. doi:

  5. Gardasil®9 Human Papillomavirus 9-valent Vaccine, Recombinant. Patient information about GARDASIL®9 (pronounced “gard-Ah-sill nīn”) (Human papillomavirus 9-valent vaccine, recombinant).

  6. Population Reference Bureau. How many men have HPV?

Additional Reading
Originally written by Lisa Fayed