How to Get the HPV Vaccine

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

woman getting the HPV Vaccine

BSIP / UIG / Getty Images

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 are currently three HPV vaccines approved for use in the United States - Cervarix, Gardasil and Gardasil-9.

Although many health insurance companies will pay for the vaccine, coverage can vary among providers and policies based on a variety of factors. If you find yourself without coverage for the HPV vaccine, there are a few options you can explore to get it at low or even no cost. Learn more below.

Why HPV Vaccination Is Needed

According to the U.S. 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.

Most sexually active people will encounter HPV in their lifetime - usually by the time they reach their 30s. Approximately 150 different strains of HPV have been identified - and those linked to cancers or genital warts are classified as "high-risk" strains. The vaccine works by targeting those high-risk strains.

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

There are programs run by both the U.S. government and private companies to help families who may be uninsured or underinsured afford vaccines for preventable diseases.

Government Access Programs

The Vaccines for Children (VCF) program provides free access to vaccines recommended for children by the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) - including HPV vaccines. Children aged 19 or younger are eligible for vaccines through VCF if they meet the following requirements:

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

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 ACIP, of which the HPV vaccine is one. Most comprehensive health insurers will cover the HPV vaccines without cost-sharing, but short-term health insurance policies may not. Your health provider can help you work through options.

Merck Vaccine Patient Assistance Program

The pharmaceutical company that manufactures Gardisil-9 and Gardasil 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).

Merck Vaccine Program Income Eligibility Requirements

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.

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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7 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. Last reviewed May 25, 2021.

  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. Last reviewed July 21, 2021.

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