When Was the HPV Vaccine Created?: A Timeline

When Was the HPV Vaccine Created?: A Timeline

The HPV vaccine is a vital tool in the fight against cervical cancer, the fourth most common cancer in women worldwide. It is essential to understand the history of the HPV vaccine to grasp its significance and importance.

What Is HPV?

Before diving into the history of the HPV vaccine, it is vital to understand what HPV is. HPV stands for the human papillomavirus, a sexually transmitted infection that can cause an array of health problems. There are more than 100 types of HPV, with some types causing warts, while others can lead to cancer.

The Early Days

In the 1970s, German virologist Harald Zur Hausen was working on the theory that cervical cancer could be caused by a virus. It was not until the 1980s that he concluded that HPV was the viral culprit behind cervical cancer.

Later in the 1980s, the United States National Cancer Institute began research on HPV and discovered the specific strain of HPV that causes cervical cancer, 16 and 18. However, it was not until 1991 that they realized that a vaccine could prevent HPV infection and the resultant cervical cancer.

Development of the HPV Vaccine

Merck was the first company to develop an HPV vaccine. In the late 1990s, Merck researchers finished creating the HPV vaccine and began clinical trials. These trials were conducted in several countries, including the United States, Mexico, and Costa Rica.

By 2002, Merck had successfully completed phase III clinical trials, where the vaccine was given to over 18,000 women. The results were promising, with the vaccine preventing 90% of HPV infections.

Approval of the HPV Vaccine

In 2006, Merck’s HPV vaccine was approved in the US by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under the trade name Gardasil. The vaccine was approved for girls and women ages 9-26.

The following year, the European Medicines Agency approved Gardasil as well. Before the vaccine was approved, it was subject to rigorous clinical trials to ensure its safety and effectiveness.

Expanding the HPV Vaccine to Boys

In 2009, the FDA approved the use of Gardasil in boys and men between the ages of 9 and 26. Several other countries, such as Australia and Canada, soon followed suit and approved the same guidelines.

The decision to expand the vaccine to boys was based on the understanding that HPV can cause cancer in both men and women. By vaccinating boys, it would not only protect them from developing cancer but also reduce transmission to their sexual partners.

New HPV Vaccines

In 2014, the FDA approved the second HPV vaccine, Gardasil 9. This vaccine protects against an additional 5 HPV strains, for a total of 9 strains.

Today, there are three HPV vaccines available globally: Cervarix, Gardasil, and Gardasil 9. Each vaccine is slightly different, protecting against different strains of HPV.

The Future of HPV Vaccines

The HPV vaccine has been a tremendous success, but there is always room for improvement. Researchers are currently working on developing third-generation HPV vaccines, which are expected to offer more comprehensive protection against more strains of HPV.

In addition to improved protection, researchers are looking into developing more accessible and cheaper HPV vaccines, making it more accessible to people worldwide.


The HPV vaccine has come a long way since its inception in the 1990s. From understanding the HPV virus, developing the vaccine, and expanding its approval, the HPV vaccine has been a vital tool in protecting people worldwide from cervical cancer and other health issues caused by HPV.


  • https://www.who.int/cancer/cervical-cancer/about/en/
  • https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/cervical-cancer/statistics
  • https://www.voicesforvaccines.org/the-history-of-the-hpv-vaccine/
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3773456/


  • When was the HPV vaccine created?
    The HPV vaccine was created in the late 1990s by Merck.
  • When was the first HPV vaccine approved?
    The first HPV vaccine, Gardasil, was approved by the FDA in 2006.
  • What strains of HPV does the HPV vaccine protect against?
    The HPV vaccine protects against various strains of HPV, depending on the vaccine. Gardasil protects against 4 strains, while Gardasil 9 protects against 9 strains. Cervarix protects against 2 strains.
  • Can boys get the HPV vaccine?
    Yes, boys can get the HPV vaccine. The FDA approved the use of Gardasil in boys and men between the ages of 9 and 26 in 2009.
  • Is the HPV vaccine safe?
    The HPV vaccine is safe and effective. It has undergone rigorous clinical trials to ensure its safety and effectiveness.

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