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Vaccinating against HPV

Most changes to the cells of the cervix are due to an infection called HPV—Human Papilloma Virus.

Anyone who has ever had sexual contact could have HPV—it is so common that four in five people will have had genital HPV at some time in their lives.

In most people, the virus clears up naturally in one to two years. Although HPV infection can cause cell changes within the cervix that could lead to cervical cancer, it usually takes a long time—often more than 10 years.

There is a vaccine available that can prevent new infection with some of the types of HPV that have been associated with causing cervical cancer, anal cancer and genital warts.

All children aged 12–13 years are recommended to have the HPV vaccine. The vaccine is most effective at this stage before sexual activity has commenced and when the body produces more antibodies. The vaccine is provided to students of this age for free through school as part of the National Immunisation Program.

If you missed out on getting the HPV vaccination at school, you can catch-up on the HPV vaccine for free before you turn 26 years of age by seeing your local doctor.

Older people may also benefit from the vaccine (particularly those at higher risk of HPV-related diseases). Speak to your doctor to find out if it’s right for you.

Women and people with a cervix still need to have regular a Cervical Screening Test from the age of 25, even after having the HPV vaccine.

This webpage was last reviewed and updated in February 2023.

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