How to Get the HPV Vaccine

Your options if you're uninsured or your plan doesn't cover it

woman getting the HPV Vaccine

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The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is a series of two or three shots given over a six-month period to help prevent HPV infection. There is only one HPV vaccine currently approved for use in the United States, called Gardasil-9.

Although many health insurance companies will pay for the vaccine, coverage can vary among 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.

Even so, there may be ways to get the shots at low or no cost even if your provider does not cover HPV vaccination or you are uninsured.

Why HPV Vaccination Is Needed

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 36,000 new cancer diagnoses each year can be attributed to prior HPV infection. These include:

If current HPV vaccination recommendations were followed, the CDC estimates that around 32,000 of these cancers could be averted.

Without vaccination, the majority of Americans can expect to get HPV by the time they reach their 30s. There are more than 200 strains of HPV, but only a few high-risk types cause cancer or genital warts; in fact, most cancer cases are caused by only two specific strains.

The HPV vaccine works by targeting those high-risk strains most commonly linked to cancer.

HPV Vaccination Recommendations

The CDC recommends HPV vaccination for girls and boys ages 11 to 12. It can also be given to anyone 26 and under who has not been adequately vaccinated and administered to children as young as 9 if needed. Some people up to age 45 are also eligible.

Access to HPV Vaccination

Gardisil-9 is available to Medicaid recipients 20 and under, the cost of which is fully covered by the federally funded Vaccines for Children (VFC) program.

For those 21 and older, Medicaid vaccine coverage is an optional benefit and decided on a state-by-state basis. Today, 39 states and the District of Columbia cover HPV vaccination for this older age group.

With respect to private insurance, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires most insurers to cover vaccinations recommended by the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), of which the HPV vaccine is one. Most comprehensive health insurers will cover Gardasil-9 without cost-sharing.

The same may not be true for short-term health insurance policies, effected into law under the Trump administration, which aren't required to comply with ACA standards.

HPV vaccination may also be covered by Part D of your Medicare coverage plan. Even so, Medicare is typically for adults 65 and over, for whom HPV vaccination is not recommended.

Financial Assistance Programs

For people who are uninsured or whose insurance policy does not cover the cost of HPV vaccination, there are several avenues for financial assistance.

Merck Vaccine Patient Assistance Program

The pharmaceutical company that manufactures Gardisil-9 offers a vaccine assistance program to cover the cost of the vaccine itself. To qualify, you must:

  • Be between 19 and 45 years of age
  • Have no health insurance
  • Live in the United States (although you don't have to be a U.S. citizen)
  • Have an annual income at or less than 400% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL).

In 2021, you could qualify for the Merck assistance program if you made $51,040 ($12,760 x 400%) or less as an individual, $69,680 ($17,240 x 400%) or less as a couple, or $86,880 ($21,720 x 400%) or less as a family of three.

Merck will also take special circumstances into account and 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.

For more information, call Merck Patient Assistance Program at (800) 727-5400.

Vaccines for Children (VFC) Program

Even if you are not a Medicaid recipient, you can still apply directly to the aforementioned Vaccines for Children (VFC) program. To qualify for the federal program, the patient must be under 19 years of age and one of the following:

  • Medicaid-eligible
  • Uninsured
  • Underinsured
  • American Indian or Alaska Native

Every state participates in the VFC program, and more than 40,000 doctors and medical clinics nationwide are VFC providers. To find out more, call your local health department or use the online locator offered by the CDC to link to your local immunization coordinator.

Other Options

If you do not qualify for assistance elsewhere, there are alternative avenues to explore, including:

  • 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. Call your local Planned Parenthood for more information.
  • College or universities: Many such institutions provide the HPV vaccine to students in their medical clinics. Check your campus clinic for more information.
  • Local health department: Your local health department may offer free or reduced-cost HPV vaccinations, depending on any grants and funds your state receives from governmental, non-governmental, and private organizations.

A Word From Verywell

Even though the HPV vaccine may be fully covered by insurance or financial assistance programs, be aware that you may still have to pay for the office visit. Ask about any associated costs before getting the vaccine. In some cases, the fee may be waived.

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

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Human papillomavirus (HPV): Reasons to get vaccinated. Updated October 29, 2020.

  3. National Cancer Institute. HPV and cancer. Updated January 22, 2021.

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HPV vaccine recommendations. Updated March 17, 2020.

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About VFC. Updated February 18, 2016.

  6. Kaiser Family Foundation. The HPV vaccine: Access and use in the US. Updated October 9, 2018.

  7. Meites E, Szilagyi PG, Chesson HW, Unger ER, Romero JR, Markowitz LE. Human papillomavirus vaccination for adults: Updated recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices MMWR. 2019;68(32);698-702.

  8. Healthcare.gov. Federal poverty level (FPL). Updated 2021.