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Frequently asked questions

What is HPV?

HPV stands for human papillomavirus, which is a group of very common viruses.

What could an HPV infection cause?

If the infection persists, certain types of HPV could cause cervical cancer, vulval cancer, vaginal cancer, anal cancer or genital warts.

How does an HPV infection happen?

HPV spreads by skin-to-skin contact. The HPV types that cause cervical cancer are mostly spread through sexual contact and anyone, at any age, can become infected.

How would someone know if they’re infected?

Unfortunately there are often no symptoms so infected people may not realise they’ve got HPV.

Why is my daughter being offered HPV vaccination?

Getting vaccinated against HPV through the national HPV programme can help protect against the two most common types of HPV that cause cervical cancer, as well as helping protect against anal cancer and genital warts and pre-cancerous conditions in the cervix, vulva, vagina and anus. Contact your school nurse or doctor for more information on the diseases the vaccine might help protect your daughter from and your daughter's eligibility for the national HPV programme. Patient information/package leaflets for vaccines may also be useful to help you decide.

What is the national HPV programme?

In the UK, all girls in year 8 (aged 12–13 years) are offered free HPV vaccination at school through the national HPV programme. Free HPV vaccination is also offered as part of a catch-up programme in schools or GP surgeries to all girls up to the age of 18 who’ve not been previously vaccinated against HPV.

How many injections would my daughter need?

If the HPV vaccinations are started in year 8, two doses of the vaccine will be given at least six months apart. For older girls, three doses may be needed. Your daughter will be told how many doses she needs and it's very important that she has them all. Contact your school nurse or doctor if your daughter has started but not completed her HPV vaccination course or you are unsure how many doses she needs – it is important that she has all her doses.

What would I do if my daughter missed an injection?

If any vaccinations are missed, for whatever reason, you should speak to your school nurse, practice nurse or GP about making another appointment as soon as possible to ensure that all doses are received.

Will it hurt?

Like any injection it may hurt so your daughter should try to stay relaxed, breathe steadily and not look at the needle. Sometimes people can experience pain, redness and swelling at the site of the injection, or headaches after the injection.

Are there any side effects?

Many people have no problems after their vaccination, but some may experience side effects. If your daughter experiences any side effects or feels unwell, please tell your GP, pharmacist or nurse who should report this to MSD on 01992 467272. This includes any possible side effects not listed in the package leaflet. You can also report side effects to www.mhra.gov.uk/yellowcard. By reporting side effects you can help provide more information on the safety of this medicine.

What should I do if my daughter and I have decided she should have the vaccine?

Record the dates on which the vaccinations will be given, discuss any information leaflets and sign the consent form. If your daughter can’t make any of these dates, it’s very important to let your nurse or GP know.

Who can give consent for the vaccine?

Parents, carers or guardians would usually need to give consent for a girl aged 12-13 years to receive the vaccine. Nurses and GPs will always aim to work in partnership with parents, carers or guardians where possible. However, if the nurse or GP is assured that a girl is capable of self-consent then this may be possible. If you can’t come to an agreement, contact your school nurse, practice nurse or GP to help you discuss it further.

What should I do if I have more questions?

If you have any further questions about HPV vaccination, speak to your school nurse, practice nurse or GP.


Information provided on this website is not intended to replace the advice of a healthcare professional.

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Reporting of side effects

If you get any side effects, talk to your doctor, pharmacist or nurse. This includes any possible side effects not listed in the package leaflet. You can also report side effects directly via the Yellow Card Scheme at: www.mhra.gov.uk/yellowcard . By reporting side effects you can help provide more information on the safety of this medicine.