HPV Immunisation Frequently Asked Questions

The HPV vaccine has been used in the UK since 2008 and more than 10 million doses have been given.

The human papillomavirus is very common and it is caught through intimate sexual contact with another person who already has it. Because it is a very common infection, most people will get it during their lifetime.

There are many types of human papillomavirus. This virus increases the risk of developing some cancers later in life, such as:

  • cervical cancer
  • some mouth and throat cancers
  • some cancers of the anus and genital areas

The HPV vaccine does not protect against other sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia and it won’t stop girls getting pregnant. HPV vaccine has been used in the UK since 2008 and most women aged 15 to 24 years have now been given the vaccine.

The HPV vaccine has been offered to all girls in school year 8 for over ten years. From September 2019 the vaccine is being offered to year 8 boys. This is because the evidence is clear that the HPV vaccine helps protect both boys and girls from HPV-related cancers.

HPV infection is very common. More than 70% of unvaccinated people will get it.

HPV lives on the skin in and around the whole genital area, so using condoms does not provide complete protection from HPV.

There are many different types of HPV.

Most HPV infections do not cause any symptoms and get better on their own. Some do not clear up and can lead to cancer whilst others cause genital warts.

In time it is expected that the vaccine will save hundreds of lives every year in the UK. A recent Scottish study has already shown a 71% reduction in pre-cancerous cervical disease in young women.

Since the start of the vaccination programme in the UK there has been a big decline in the number of young people with genital warts.

HPV vaccine is used in 84 countries including the USA, Australia, Canada, and most of Europe and more than 80 million people have received the vaccine worldwide.

Most young people are being vaccinated. Nearly 90% of parents choose to accept the HPV vaccine for their child. Most women aged 15 to 24 years in England have now been given the vaccine and since September 2019 most boys will be given the vaccine too. Females and boys should have the vaccine at the recommended ages. Vaccination at a younger age is more effective at preventing HPV infection. So, the best time to be vaccinated is between 12 and 14 years.

You will require two doses of the HPV vaccination to be fully protected. When you are in year 8 you will be offered the first injection and will be offered the second 6 to 12 months after the first (usually in year 9), but it can be given up to 24 months after the first. Your school should inform you when you are due the second dose. The HPV vaccine is offered to all boys and girls starting in school year 8 (aged 12-13 years) and is recommended for all boys and girls from the age of 12 years up to their eighteenth birthday.

Like most injections, the side effects of the HPV vaccination are quite mild. Stinging and soreness in the arm are common but wear off in a couple of days. More serious side effects are extremely rare. The vaccine meets the rigorous safety standards required for it to be used in the UK and has an excellent safety profile. Millions of doses of vaccine have already been given to girls in the UK and around the world. As with all vaccines, any reports of side effects are closely monitored and reviewed. See www.nhs.uk/vaccinations if you’d like more information on side effects.

You will probably want to share information about the vaccine with your child and discuss it together. The nurse will discuss the HPV vaccine with your child at the school session and will be able to answer any questions they may have.

The soreness and swelling you may get in your arm can last for a few hours, to a couple of days.

Yes. If you missed either of your vaccinations, for whatever reason, you should speak to your school immunisation service on 0333 358 3397. The most important thing is to have both doses at the right time to get the best protection.

Definitely. If you’ve had sex, and are in the relevant age group, you should still have the vaccine.

Women who have had the vaccine will still need to go for cervical screening. All women aged 25 and over in England are offered cervical screening tests.

The vaccine will prevent around 70% of cervical cancer cases, but screening is still needed to pick up any other cervical abnormalities.

If you have not had any HPV vaccine by the time you are 15 years old you will need three doses to have full protection. This is because the response to two doses in older boys and girls is not quite as good, so to be on the safe side you should have three doses, with the second dose given around a month after the first dose, and a final dose given around six months after the first dose. You should speak to your school immunisation service on 0333 358 3397.

For more information visit www.nhs.uk/hpv


View our introduction to the HPV vaccine,
how to contact us and what happens next

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