HPV Vaccine Cost and Patient Assistance Programs

woman getting the HPV Vaccine

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The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is a series of three shots given over a six-month period. Many large health insurance providers cover one of the vaccines, but that varies among different providers and policies. The age group for which the vaccine is covered as well as whether it is covered for females and males or females alone also varies.

There is no current legislation that requires insurance providers to cover the costs of the HPV vaccine.

Once you obtain health insurance, you can always call your insurance provider to determine if it covers the vaccine. Your doctor's front office staff may be able to tell if your provider covers the cost, as well.

HPV Strains Which Can Lead to Cervical Cancer and Genital Warts

There are over 150 different strains of human papillomavirus (HPV), with at least 40 strains that affect the genitals. It's important to note that the virus can be transmitted by genital to genital contact, or even genital to object to genital contact (fomite transmission) and intercourse is not necessary to acquire or transmit the virus.

Of the 30 strains in humans, a few, in particular, are considered the "disease-causing" strains.

  • Cervical cancer - It's thought that HPV 16 and HPV 18 are responsible for 70 percent of cervical cancers. Another 20 percent are caused by a combination of HPV 31, 33, 34, 35, 45, and 52.
  • Other cancers - HPV can lead to several other types of cancer including anal cancer, penile cancer, and head and neck cancers. Most head and neck cancers related to HPV are caused by HPV 16.
  • Genital warts - Around 90 percent of genital warts are caused by HPV 6 and HPV 11.

It's important to understand the variety of strains of HPV when considering the HPV vaccine. Even if someone has been infected by one or more strains of the virus, the vaccine may still offer protection against other strains.

What HPV Vaccinations Are Available?

There are three HPV vaccinations available in the United States. These include:

  • Gardasil (approved in 2006) offers protection against HPV 6, 11, 16, and 18
  • Cervarix (approved in 2009) offers protection against HPV 16 and 18
  • Gardasil 9 (approved in 2014) offers protection against strains 6, 11, 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58


The vaccine is covered by Medicaid for those who are age 20 and under. Whether the vaccine is covered for those 21 and over varies by state.

HPV Vaccine for Those Who Are Uninsured or When the Vaccine Isn't Covered

If you don't have health insurance, or if your insurance does not cover the cost of the vaccine, there are still several options. Patient assistance programs and other options will be discussed below, but let's first look at the different vaccines available and what they cover.

Options for Assistance in Paying

If you are uninsured, or if your insurance does not cover the cost of the vaccine, there are several options for assistance. These range from the Vaccines for Children program, to patient assistance programs offered by the drug companies, to your local health department. Let's look at these separately.

Merck Vaccine Patience Assistance Program:

Merck offers a vaccine assistance program to those who desire to receive Gardisil 9. To qualify, you must:

  • Be between the ages of 19 and 26
  • Be uninsured
  • Live in the United States, although you don't have to be a U.S. citizen
  • Have an annual income less than $47,520 for individuals, $64,080 for couples or $97,200 for a family of four

Merck does take special circumstances into account and often makes exceptions on a case-by-case basis. Do not let the income qualifications deter you from applying. You may still be approved based on your specific situation.

Applying for the Merck Vaccine Patient Assistance Program is easy. Simply visit the Merck website and download and print the application. Return the completed application to your doctor's office. Your doctor's office will submit the application to Merck, who will notify the office of a decision the same day. It is important to note that the application must be completed and approved by Merck prior to getting the vaccination.

Vaccines for Children Program:

The Vaccines for Children Program is perfect for young women who are 18 years and younger and want to get vaccinated but cannot afford the vaccine. To qualify for the federal program, young women must be:

  • 18 years or younger
  • Medicaid eligible
  • Uninsured or have insurance that does not cover the HPV vaccine

Every state participates in the Vaccine for Children Program. More than 50,000 doctors and medical clinics nationwide are VCP providers.

To find a provider in your area, call your local health department or visit the Vaccines for Children website. Each state's health department governs the program and will be able to provide you with information.

It is important to note that even though you may be able to get the HPV vaccine for free under the Vaccine for Children Program, the participating doctor may charge you for an office visit. If you are on Medicaid, this fee will be covered, but if you are not covered by Medicaid, you will be responsible for the visit payment. Not all doctors charge a fee, but you may want to ask prior to your appointment.

More Ways to Get Assistance Paying for Gardasil

If you don't qualify for Merck's vaccine program, GSK vaccine program, or for Vaccines for Children, there is still hope! Here are some other ways you can get help paying for Gardasil:

  • Planned Parenthood: Federal, state, and private grants have allowed many Planned Parenthood offices around the United States to offer the HPV vaccine for free or at a reduced cost. Try calling your local Planned Parenthood for more information.
  • College or university medical clinic: Many large colleges and universities provide the HPV vaccine to students at their medical clinics. Check your campus clinic for more information.
  • Local health department: Call your local health department to learn about other local clinics that may offer free or reduced-cost HPV vaccinations. Your local health department may even be able to offer you the vaccine, even if you do not qualify for the Vaccines for Children Program. It depends on what grants and funds your state receives from the government and other private organizations.

HPV Doctor Discussion Guide

Get our printable guide for your next doctor's appointment to help you ask the right questions.

Doctor Discussion Guide Woman
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Article Sources
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  1. NYU Langone Health. Types of human papillomavirus.

  2. World Health Organization. Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and cervical cancer. January 24, 2019.

  3. Anic GM, Giuliano AR. Genital HPV infection and related lesions in men. Prev Med. 2011;53 Suppl 1:S36-41. doi:10.1016/j.ypmed.2011.08.002.

  4. Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Questions and answers about HPV and the vaccine. Updated November 2, 2019.

  5. National Cancer Institute. Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines. Reviewed September 9, 2019.

  6. Medicaid.gov. Quality of care vaccines.

  7. Merck & Co., Inc. Merck programs to help those in need: Gardasil-9. 2019.

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