The Ideal Age to Get the HPV Vaccine

The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine has become an essential part of basic preventive healthcare for preteens, teenagers, and young adults, preventing a sexually transmitted disease that can cause genital warts and, in some people, cancer.

A young woman receiving an HPV vaccination
Joe Raedle / Getty Images

HPV is a virus that can be transmitted through sexual contact of all types, including vaginal, oral, and anal sex. Infection with HPV has been linked to a variety of cancers, including cervical, throat, and anal cancer.

The vaccine Gardasil-9 is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for children and adults of both sexes from age 9 through 45.

Two major public health bodies—the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Cancer Society (ACS)—offer specific recommendations for HPV vaccination.

The HPV vaccine can prevent you from getting infected. It does not alter the course of the disease in people who have already been infected.

Recommendations for Adolescents

Epidemiological data suggest that up to 80% of people will get an HPV infection at some point in their life. Given this prevalence, the CDC recommends HPV vaccination for all girls and boys ages 11 to 12.

Two shots of the vaccine are needed, administered six to 12 months apart. Those who get the second dose less than five months later will need a third dose. Anyone who gets the vaccine after the age of 14 would also need three doses.

According to the CDC, the vaccine can be given as early as age 9.

ACS guidelines differ slightly. The ACS panel recommends vaccination for children 9 to 10 based on the expectation that doing so will help achieve higher on-time vaccination rates and reduce the rate of HPV-associated cancers.

Recommendations for Young Adults

The CDC also recommends a three-dose series of the HPV vaccine for certain people who have not completed the early two-dose series. These include:

In addition, the HPV vaccine is recommended for young adults up to age 26 who are immunocompromised, such as those living with HIV.

Although men get HPV-associated diseases less often than women, the vaccine is recommended for them nonetheless. This is especially true for MSM, who are up to 38 times more likely to get anal cancer compared to the general population and 130 times more likely if they have HIV.

Recommendations for People Over 26

Although the HPV vaccine is approved for people up to 45, the CDC only offers a provisional recommendation for vaccination of women and men over 26. According to the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), HPV vaccination is less likely to offer benefit given that most adults over 26 will already have been infected with HPV.

For this reason, clinicians can administer the vaccine to patients over 26 but should advise them of the limitations of vaccination. People who have had no or very few sexual partners stand the best chance of reaping the benefits of vaccination.

In contrast to the CDC recommendations, the ACS guidelines do not encourage HPV vaccination after 26 as it is unlikely to provide protection from cancer.

In addition, there has been a global shortage of HPV vaccine that is expected to continue for several years. Offering the vaccine to those who are most likely to benefit is a strategic way to ensure that enough is available moving forward.

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

A Word From Verywell

HPV vaccination is an important part of a cancer prevention plan. According to the CDC, HPV infection accounts for nearly 36,000 cancer diagnoses each year, of which 32,000 may be prevented if current HPV vaccination guidelines are followed.

If you think you are at high risk of HPV but fall outside of the recommended age group for vaccination, speak with your doctor to see if Gardasil-9 is appropriate for you.

Was this page helpful?
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. Food and Drug Administration. Gardasil 9. Updated October 18, 2018.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Human papillomavirus (HPV): HPV vaccine schedule and dosing. Updated August 15, 2019.

  3. Saslow D, Andrews KS, Manassaram-Baptiste D, et al. Human papillomavirus vaccination 2020 guideline update: American Cancer Society guideline adaptation. CA Cancer J Clin. 2020 Jul 8;70(4):281-2. doi:10.3322/caac.21616

  4. Colón-López V, Shiels MS, Machin M, et al. Anal cancer risk among people with HIV infection in the United States. J Clin Oncol. 2018 Jan 1;36(1):68–75. doi:10.1200/JCO.2017.74.9291

  5. Meites E, Szilagyi PG, Chesson HW, et al. Human papillomavirus vaccination for adults: Updated recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. MMWR. 2019 Aug 16;68932:698-702. doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm6832a3

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