Human papillomavirus, known as HPV, is the most common sexually transmitted infection in Canada. Three out of four sexually active Canadian adults will have at least one HPV infection in their lifetime.

The HPV vaccine can protect against HPV-related cancers and diseases.

How do you get HPV?

HPV is spread by skin-to-skin contact during sexual activity, including oral sex. You do not have to have sexual intercourse to get an HPV infection. Any contact in the genital area or skin around the genitals can potentially transmit HPV.

Most people never develop symptoms and do not know that they have been infected with HPV. They can still carry the virus and infect others.

If you are sexually active, you can protect yourself from HPV by using barrier methods (condoms and dental dams).

HPV vaccine

The HPV vaccine, Gardasil, is approved for use in females aged 9-45 and males aged 9-26. The vaccine is most effective when given before sexual activity begins. Those who are already sexually active can still benefit from the vaccine.

The HPV vaccine is safe and well tolerated. Approval for use of the vaccine was based on many clinical trials and studies showing that it is safe. People who were subjects of the studies had very few side effects. The most common side effect is temporary soreness at the site of injection. There is also no risk of getting an HPV infection from the vaccine. HPV vaccine does not contain any thimerosal or mercury.

School program

In Ontario, the HPV vaccine is offered for free to all children in Grade 7. HPV immunization is not mandatory but it is recommended. Consent  is required to receive the HPV vaccine and consent forms can be obtained by calling our Vaccine Information Line at 519-575-4400. Students who miss a dose of the vaccine are still eligible for the free vaccine, from Public Health, until they finish Grade 12.

View the schedule to see when Public Health will be at your school.


In Ontario, the HPV vaccine is offered for free to men who have sex with other men who are 26 years of age or under. The vaccine is available through Public Health or your health care provider.

Additional resources

Contact Us