How to Get the HPV Vaccine

Options for 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 three shots given over a six-month period to help prevent against HPV infection. Although many large 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.

There is no 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 and Cancer

There are more than 150 different strains of HPV, with at least 40 strains that affect the genitals. It's important to note that the virus can be transmitted orally, through genital to genital contact, and even genital to object to genital contact (fomite transmission).

The disease-causing strains of HPV are associated with a number of different health conditions, including:

Accessing the HPV Vaccine

Worldwide, there are three HPV vaccinations, each of which protects against specific strains of HPV.

  • Gardasil (protects against HPV 6, 11, 16, and 18)
  • Cervarix (protects against HPV 16 and 18)
  • Gardasil 9 (protects against strains 6, 11, 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58)

Of these, Gardisil 9 is the only HPV vaccine available in the United States.

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

Payment Options and Assistance

For people who are uninsured or whose health insurance policy does not cover the cost of HPV vaccination, there are several options for financial aid for getting the shots.

Merck Vaccine Patience Assistance Program

The pharmaceutical company that manufactures Gardisil 9, Merck, offers a vaccine assistance program. To qualify, you must:

  • Be between 19 and 26
  • Have no health insurance
  • 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 will also 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.

To apply for the Merck Vaccine Patient Assistance Program, visit the Merck website, download and print the application, and return the completed application to your doctor, who will coordinate with Merck to determine your eligibility.

Vaccines for Children Program

The Vaccines for Children Program (VCP) is a federal program that can help young people 18 and under get the HPV vaccine if they can't otherwise afford it. To qualify for the federal program, a child must be:

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

Every state participates in the VCP and more than 50,000 doctors and medical clinics nationwide are VCP providers.

If you're a teenager or the parent of a child who is eligible for the HPV vaccine, you can find a provider in your area by calling your local health department or visiting the Vaccines for Children website.

It's important to note that even though you may be able to get the HPV vaccine for yourself or a child for free under VCP, the participating doctor may charge you for an office visit. If you're on Medicaid, this fee will be covered; if not you likely will be responsible for the visit payment.

Other Options

If you do not qualify for assistance from Merck or the VCP for getting the Gardisil 9 vaccine, there are a few alternative avenues to try:

  • 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 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
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. NYU Langone Health. Types of human papillomavirus.

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

  3. Quality of care vaccines.

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