Frequently asked questions
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HPV infections are common. While most infections clear up on their own without causing symptoms, some infections caused by types of human papillomavirus may cause certain cancers, like anal or cervical cancer. HPV types that may cause cancer are called high-risk types.
HPV vaccination helps protect people against types of human papillomaviruses. This helps prevent an infection caused by a high-risk human papillomavirus from happening before it can become more serious and increases the risk of HPV cancers in the future.
People who are vaccinated against types of human papillomavirus can also help stop them spreading to people who aren’t vaccinated.
Eligible for the NHS National Immunisation Programme (NIP):
Boys (born AFTER 1st September 2006):
You/my son was/were 12 to 13 years old when boys were added to the HPV vaccination programme (1st September 2019). You/they will be able to receive vaccination under the NHS National Immunisation Programme up until your/their 25th birthday.
Girls/women (born AFTER 1st September 1991):
You/your daughter was/were eligible for HPV vaccination when the HPV vaccination programme was introduced in 2008. You/they will be able to receive vaccination under the NHS National Immunisation Programme up until your/their 25th birthday.
If you would like any further information about the NHS National Immunisation Programme, or if you think your child has missed their vaccination, please speak to your school nurse or other healthcare professional.
Not eligible for the NHS NIP:
Boys (born BEFORE 1st September 2006):
You/your son turned 14 before HPV vaccination for boys was added to the HPV vaccination programme (1st September 2019) so they are not eligible to receive it on the NHS. Speak to your school nurse or other healthcare professional for more information.
Girls/women (born BEFORE 1st September 1991):
You/your daughter is not eligible to receive HPV vaccination under the NHS National Immunisation Programme. Speak to your school nurse or other healthcare professional for more information.
Your child may get some protection as a result of the HPV vaccination programme because vaccinated people may help stop the spread of certain human papillomavirus types to unvaccinated people.
Boys are at risk of HPV infections and certain HPV cancers when they grow up, just like girls. In adulthood, boys may be affected by human papillomavirus infections that over time turn into:
- Anal cancers
- Pre-cancerous lesions (cell changes) of the anus and penis
There is good scientific evidence that including boys in the HPV vaccination programme will help protect them against types of HPV that may cause cancers in the future. Vaccinating boys can also help stop the spread of types of HPV to unvaccinated girls. The HPV vaccination programme is offered in school year 8/S1 because children are unlikely to have been exposed to types of human papillomaviruses yet.
HPV, or human papillomavirus, is the name for a common group of viruses. There are over 200 types of human papillomavirus. Around 40 types can affect the genital and anal area.
Human papillomaviruses are grouped as either high-risk types or low-risk types depending on whether they are linked to cancer.
High-risk human papillomavirus types: infections caused by high-risk types may lead to HPV cancers and pre-cancerous cell changes in areas such as the cervix, vagina, vulva and anus in women, and the anus and penis in men.
Low-risk human papillomavirus types: infections caused by low-risk types may cause other HPV-related diseases.
If you think your child has missed their vaccination, please speak to your school nurse or other healthcare professional.
The HPV vaccination programme has been interrupted by school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic. School immunisation teams are working hard to reschedule any missed appointments. The timing of the programme may vary in different areas so please speak to your child’s school or school nurse for more information.
Vaccinating boys and girls against certain types of HPV at the recommended age helps protect them against those types of HPV infection before they are likely to come into contact with human papillomaviruses. Infections caused by high-risk types increase the risk of developing HPV cancers in later life.
Most HPV infections don’t cause any symptoms and clear up on their own. When infections caused by certain types of human papillomavirus last a long time in the body (usually around 20 years or more), they can lead to changes in the cells infected with HPV. These changes make the cells grow out of control.
For example, certain types of human papillomavirus may cause:
- HPV cancers of the anal and genital area (anus, vulva, vagina and cervix)
- Pre-cancerous lesions (areas of cells that are starting to show changes that could become cancer) of the anal and genital area (vulva, vagina, cervix and anus)
HPV is spread through close skin-to-skin contact with a person infected with a type of the human papillomavirus. Human papillomaviruses can be found on the fingers, hands, mouth or genitals.
Most people don’t know they have a human papillomavirus so they may end up spreading it to others without realising it.
Yes. Boys are given the same HPV vaccines that have been given to millions of girls in the UK since 2008 as part of the NHS National Immunisation Programme. HPV vaccination works in the same way for boys as it does for girls, by teaching their body how to fight off certain types of human papillomavirus before they become an infection.
Most HPV infections don’t have any signs or symptoms. That means most people won’t know they have a human papillomavirus unless it causes problems.
Cervical screening (sometimes called a smear test), provided by the NHS to women and individuals with a cervix aged 25 to 64, tests for high-risk human papillomaviruses and the health of the cervix. It’s important that all women and individuals with a cervix aged 25 and over go to their cervical screening appointments when they are invited, which is usually every 3 years. This will help make sure that changes that may have been caused by HPV are picked up and dealt with before they have a chance to turn into cervical cancer.
HPV vaccination as part of the NHS National Immunisation Programme helps prevent cervical cancer caused by certain human papillomaviruses. HPV vaccinations may not protect everyone who receives them. That’s why it’s important that all people with a cervix go to all of their NHS cervical screening appointments when they’re old enough.
Cervical screening (sometimes called a smear test) tests for certain high-risk types of HPV and checks the health of the cervix (the opening to the womb from the vagina). All women and people with a cervix aged 25 to 64 should be invited to cervical screening.
National Immunisation Programmes (NIPs) are services provided by the NHS to help stop the spread of infectious diseases, like HPV. For example, if your child was vaccinated as a baby, the vaccines they received would probably have been part of the NIP.
No, they are the same vaccine given on the NHS as part of the National Immunisation Programme. Two types of high-risk human papillomavirus cause around 70% of cervical cancers. When the vaccine was only given to girls it was called the cervical cancer programme.
It has never been only for prevention of cervical cancer. It has always been a vaccination against types of human papillomavirus.
Please note the following advice may have changed as a result of COVID-19.
Boys and girls will be given the opportunity to be vaccinated against HPV as part of the NHS National Immunisation Programme at school in year 8/S1 when they’re 12 to 13 years old (11 to 13 years old in Scotland).
Your school will organise the vaccinations and will send you further information. For any further advice and guidance, please speak to your school nurse or other healthcare professional.
Some schools might not offer the HPV vaccination programme. If this is the case, you can speak to your doctor for more information.
As with any vaccines and medicines, HPV vaccinations may cause side effects which affect people differently. Some people don’t have any side effects after their HPV vaccine.
The most common side effects are:
- redness, swelling or pain at the site of the injection
Some people might get:
- bruising or itching at the site of the injection
- a high temperature or feeling hot and shivery
- feeling sick (nausea)
- pain in the arms, hands, fingers, legs, feet or toes
If you/your child experiences any side effects, please speak to their doctor, pharmacist or school or practice 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 athttps://yellowcard.mhra.gov.uk
or search for MHRA Yellow Card in the Google Play or Apple App Store. By reporting side effects, you can help provide more information on the safety of this medicine.
No, HPV vaccination happens around the world. More than 80 million people have been vaccinated against HPV worldwide.
Parents, carers or guardians would usually need to give consent for a child to receive the vaccine on the NHS National Immunisation Programme. School nurses, practice nurses and doctors will always aim to work with parents, carers or guardians where possible.
If a nurse or doctor is reassured that a child has the understanding to consent to the vaccine for themselves then this may be possible. If you can’t come to an agreement, contact your school nurse, practice nurse or doctor to help you discuss it further.
Your child could be at risk of types of HPV infections that may cause diseases like cervical or anal cancer in the future. They could also be at risk of spreading human papillomaviruses to other unvaccinated people, including future partners.
HPV is a group of common viruses. Many of us may catch a type of HPV at some point. While most HPV infections cause no symptoms and clear up on their own, some don’t. Lasting infections of some high-risk human papillomaviruses increase the risk of developing certain HPV cancers and pre-cancerous cell changes. The HPV vaccination programme helps protect your child against types of human papillomavirus to help reduce their risk of certain HPV cancers in the future.
Human papillomaviruses and other infections can be spread through close skin-to-skin contact, including during sex and sexual activities. HPV vaccination at the recommended age helps teach the immune system how to protect the body against types of human papillomavirus before it has been exposed to them. The immune system will then know how to fight off those viruses if it is exposed to them in the future.
There are other ways of helping stop the spread of certain human papillomaviruses and other diseases, including always wearing a condom during sex. Using a condom can help protect against lots of sexually transmitted diseases, but it won’t stop all of them.
There is no treatment for HPV infections. Most HPV infections cause no symptoms and clear up on their own.
Women and individuals with a cervix aged 25 to 64 will be invited for cervical screening. Cervical screening tests for types of high-risk human papillomavirus and checks the health of the cervix.
Immunisation is the action of making a person immune to infection. Vaccination is using a vaccine to produce immunity against a disease.
For example, HPV vaccination helps to produce immunity against some types of HPV.
Types of HPV can be caught from an infected person during:
- Any skin-to-skin contact of the genital area (it doesn’t have to be penetrative sex)
- Sexual activities such as vaginal, anal or oral sex
HPV infections often have no symptoms so a person or their partner may not know they have one.