What is HPV vaccination?
HPV vaccination, like other vaccines, works to help prevent disease.
The HPV vaccine currently used in the UK national HPV programme can help protect against the types of HPV that cause:
- ~70% of cervical cancers
- ~90% of genital warts
- 75–80% of anal cancers
- Pre-cancerous conditions in the cervix, vulva, vagina and anus
If you have any questions about HPV vaccination that are not answered here, in the FAQ or download sections, contact your school nurse, practice nurse or GP for more information.
Does HPV vaccination work?
The HPV vaccine currently used in the UK national HPV programme has been shown to be effective at protecting against cervical cancer, anal cancer, pre-cancerous lesions in the cervix, vagina, vulva and anus, and genital warts related to HPV types 6, 11, 16 and 18.
Studies in 9 countries with national HPV programmes have shown the effectiveness of the vaccine over the past 10 years. Compared to before the programmes were introduced, reductions in HPV infection, pre-cancerous lesions in the cervix and genital warts related to the types of HPV in the vaccine have been seen.
Contact your school nurse or doctor for more information on the diseases the vaccine might help protect you from and your eligibility for the national HPV programme. Patient information/package leaflets for vaccines may also be useful to help you decide.
HPV vaccination is not a substitute for safe sex and does not offer protection from other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) so it is still very important to use protection when planning to have sex. Using a condom is a very effective method of protecting against other STIs, and it is still important to have regular cervical smear tests when invited to do so.
How well has HPV vaccination been tested?
The safety of all vaccines is rigorously tested in clinical trials and closely monitored. HPV vaccination has been included in the UK childhood immunisation schedule as part of the national HPV programme since September 2008, and has been shown to be generally well tolerated.
The vaccine currently used in the UK has been offered as part of the national HPV programme since 2012. Over 208 million doses of this vaccine have been given worldwide so far.
Does HPV vaccination have any side effects?
Many people have no problems after their vaccination, but some people may experience side effects. The side effects of the vaccine generally don’t last for very long and are similar to those seen with other vaccines.
- Pain, redness and swelling at the injection site
- Bruising, or itching at the injection site
- Pain in extremities (hands and feet)
A full list of side effects can be found in the patient information leaflet.
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.
Who can have HPV vaccination?
In the UK, all girls in year 8 are offered HPV vaccination through the national HPV programme, which is free and provided through schools or GP surgeries. It’s important to have the vaccine at a young age as this is when the immune system will be most receptive. Girls can also benefit most from the vaccine if it is given before they are sexually active and potentially being exposed to the HPV virus.
Girls aged up to 18 years can receive the HPV vaccine as part of the national HPV programme. If your daughter has not received the vaccine and you want further information, talk to your school nurse, practice nurse or GP.
How is HPV vaccination given?
The HPV vaccine is injected into the muscle of the upper arm.
For girls starting their HPV vaccinations in year 8 as part of the national HPV programme, two doses of the vaccine will be given at least six months apart. For older girls, three doses may be needed.
Previously, three doses of HPV vaccine were given to girls starting their vaccinations in year 8. However, a study has shown that two doses in young females provide a response that is at least as good as the response seen with three doses in older females.
The 2-dose HPV vaccination schedule for girls starting in year 8