The HPV vaccine is a series of three shots over the course of six months. There are two months between the first and second shots, and four months between the second and third shots. For example:
- January: Shot #1
- March: Shot #2 (2 months)
- June: Shot #3 (4 months)
People under the age of 15 will most of the time need only two shots because young people often have stronger immune response.
If you’re worried that you’ll forget to get future doses at the recommended times, you can sign up for email reminders at the recommended two and six months.
There are several ways that you can get the Gardasil vaccine in BC. Use the interactive tool below and find out what pathway is best for you!
YOUR PATHWAYS TO GARDASIL
Accessing Gardasil is different depending on where we live.
Could you give us an idea of where you currently live?
There is no specific vaccination program for First Nations. If you’re First Nations, you can access to the HPV vaccine based on the same four options below.
Living outside of BC? Talk to a trusted health care provider about how to access the HPV vaccine locally. Scroll down for resources on accessing the Gardasil vaccine outside of BC.
The free provincial program
Certain groups of people can receive Gardasil 9 for free before our 27th birthday through the BC provincial program.
Specific groups of people get the Gardasil vaccine for free because governments need to plan for vaccinations to occur within the groups or people at the highest risk, and at the right moment (early intervention). HIM recommends that any sexually active gay, bi, queer man and anyone in our communities who is over the age of 27 should consider becoming vaccinated if they can access one of these options.
The HPV vaccine is most effective before someone becomes sexually active and have come into contact with HPV. That’s why students in BC are offered the HPV vaccine in the 6th grade.
If you didn’t get the HPV vaccine in the 6th grade, you can still qualify to get it for free through the provincial program if you’re under 27 and any of the following:
- A guy who’s gay or bi, or has sex with other guys
- Living with HIV
- A guy who isn’t having sex but is interested in sex with other guys
- Homeless or insecurely housed
- Sex worker (exchanging sex for money or resources)
- Under 19 years old
- 9 to 18 years old and in the care of the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD)
- In youth custody services centres
People who qualify for the provincial free vaccine program can be vaccinated through your regular health care provider, a local public health clinic, a local community health centre, or an STI clinic. You do not need a prescription.
You may have been vaccinated with the Gardasil 4 vaccine before Gardasil 9 became the standard used in BC. Although it prevents less types of HPV than Gardasil 9, Gardasil 4 prevents the types of HPV that cause most cases of anal cancer, cervical cancer, and genital warts. If you got Gardasil 4, you do not qualify to get free vaccination with Gardasil 9 even if we’re under 27. Find out more about the differences between Gardasil 4 and Gardasil 9 on our Frequently Asked Questions page.
You need to be signed up for BC’s Medical Services Plan (MSP) to get Gardasil 9 for free. If you qualify for MSP but are not signed up, nurses at HIM Health Centres can help you register. International students who don’t have MSP coverage may be able to access Gardasil through your school’s private health insurance plan.
If you’re First Nations and living on reserve, you can access the HPV vaccine through the provincial program where you receive other vaccines or other health services, whether a band or First Nations community health organization or local public health clinic.
Gardasil is not covered for people on the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP) and don’t have MSP. People who are on IFHP and have severely limited income may be qualify for the Merck Access Program.
Private Health Insurance
Some people get private extended health insurance through their work or school, and others purchase their own private extended health insurance (e.g., small business owners). Private health insurance policies often include some coverage for the Gardasil 9 vaccine. They may cover the vaccine itself, or they may have a set amount that you can spend annually on the vaccines of your choice.
What medications are or are not covered vary depending on your insurance company and the specific insurance policy. Some insurance companies ask for a prescription, and some only cover part of the cost.
If you’ve been told your private insurance doesn’t cover HPV vaccination in the past, now’s the time to ask again. That’s because there have been recent changes around who should get Gardasil, and many private insurance plans are now covering Gardasil for more people – including guys up to the age of 45 who are gay, bi, or have sex with other guys.
Contacting your health insurance company is the best way of checking what coverage you have. The Gardasil 9 website has a page listing of some of the larger insurance companies in Canada and their contact information.
If you have a drug benefit wallet card, a pharmacist can check if your insurance plan covers Gardasil 9. The pharmacist will need Gardasil 9’s Drug Identification Number (DIN), which is 02437058.
If you have coverage, there are lots of places where you can get vaccinated, including at a family doctor, walk-clinic clinic, and travel clinic. Gardasil 9 also can be prescribed by pharmacists, and some can also give the vaccination themselves. The nurses at HIM health centres are also able to get a doctor to prescribe the vaccine.
Doctors, pharmacists, and some clinics often charge to administer a vaccine, usually around $20 or more. This fee which may or may not be covered by private insurance. If you have access to a HIM health centre, you can save the injection fee by getting a prescription at the HIM health centre, buying the vaccine at the pharmacy of your choice, and bring the vaccine back to the clinic for a nurse to administer. While this is only a small part of the out-of-pocket, over the full series of three injections, the savings add up.
Paying to be vaccinated out of pocket
If you don’t qualify to get Gardasil for free and don’t have health insurance that covers it, you have the option of buying and paying for it yourself, but not everyone has the means to. In general, each shot costs around $200, although the cost can be different at different pharmacies. There may also be injection fees of $20 or more. Three shots are needed, for a total cost of around $660.
Though it is ideal to get all three shots within a six-month period, the cost of three shots is expensive over a short six-month span. Speaking to a nurse at a HIM Health Centre or a trusted health care provider can help determine whether you can extend the time between shots.
If you are looking to GetGarded by paying out of pocket, there are lots of places where you can get vaccinated. Gardasil 9 can be prescribed by pharmacists and administered at many pharmacies. It can also be accessed at many travel clinics. Nurses at HIM Health Centres are also able to get a doctor to prescribe the vaccine
Doctors, pharmacies, and some clinics often charged to administer a vaccine, usually around $20 or more. If you have access to a HIM health centre, you can save the injection fee by getting a prescription at the HIM health centre, buying the vaccine at the pharmacy of your choice, and bring the vaccine back to the clinic for a nurse to administer. While this is only a small part of the out-of-pocket, over the full series of three injections, the savings add up.
The Merck Access Program
Merck Access is a program that helps some people access Gardasil aren’t eligible for the free provincial program.
This program is meant for people with extremely limited income and who do not have access to the vaccine through another pathway or can pay out of pocket.
The program is supported by Merck, the pharmaceutical company that produces the Gardasil 9 vaccine, but is run by a third-party (another company hired to help manage this program). The exact criteria are not publicly available, and decisions are made on a case-by-case basis.
Applications to the program must be made through a doctor. Nurses at HIM Health Centres have helped people fill out the required paperwork and submit an application, although only a few have been successful.
If an application is approved, this program covers the full cost of the entire vaccine series (all three shots). If you think that you might qualify, speak to a trusted health care provider, including a nurse at a HIM Health Centre.
For People in Other Parts of Canada
Although the HPV vaccine is available across Canada, different provinces have different eligibility requirements for their free access programs. The Gardasil 9 website has a page with general information on each province’s free access programs, as well as a link to more information from that province’s government website.
Enter your postal code at Vaccines411.ca, or use the Gardasil 9 website to find the nearest clinic or pharmacy where you can access the HPV vaccine.