BACKGROUND: The quadrivalent human papillomavirus vaccine has been provided in Australia through the National Human Papillomavirus Vaccination Program since April 2007. National registry data demonstrates good coverage of the vaccine, with 73% of school-aged girls having received all three doses. To evaluate the effectiveness of the program, we propose a two-pronged approach. In one (sub study A), the prevalence of the vaccine-targeted human papillomavirus genotypes in a population cohort is being estimated, and will be analysed in relation to vaccination status, cervical cytology screening status, demographic, social, behavioural, medical and clinical factors. In sub study B, the distribution of human papillomavirus genotypes detected in high grade cervical intraepithelial neoplastic lesions from vaccine eligible women is being assessed. METHODS/DESIGN: Sub Study A involves the recruitment of 1569 women aged 18-25, residing in Victoria, Australia, through Facebook advertising. Women who are sexually active are being asked to provide a self-collected vaginal swab, collected at home and posted into the study centre, where human papillomavirus DNA detection and genotyping is performed. Participants also complete an online questionnaire regarding sexual history, experience with, knowledge of, and attitudes towards human papillomavirus, the human papillomavirus vaccine, and cervical screening.Sub Study B will involve the collection of 500 cervical biopsies, positively identified as containing high grade cervical intraepithelial neoplastic lesions and/or adenocarcinoma in situ. Five serial sections are being taken from each case: sections 1 and 5 are being assessed to confirm the presence of the high grade cervical intraepithelial neoplastic lesions or adenocarcinoma in situ; human papillomavirus genotyping is performed on sections 2 and 3; single lesions are excised from section 4 using laser capture microdissection to specifically define causality of a human papillomavirus genotyping of each specific lesion. DISCUSSION: Australia is well placed to gain a clear and early insight into the effectiveness of the human papillomavirus vaccine in reducing the prevalence of human papillomavirus infection in young women, and any subsequent reduction in the prevalence of pre-cancerous cervical lesions, specifically high grade cervical intraepithelial neoplasia lesions, particularly of vaccine related types. The findings of a successful population based human papillomavirus program will have wide-reaching translational benefits across the globe.