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“The HPV vaccine” refers to the HPV vaccine currently included on the NHS childhood vaccination schedule.

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Why vaccinate against HPV?

HPV infections are common. While most infections clear up on their own, some infections caused by certain types of HPV may cause certain cancers, like anal or cervical cancer.

HPV vaccination helps protect people against high-risk types HPV 16 and HPV 18, as well as some other types of HPV. This helps stop a high-risk HPV infection from happening before it has any chance of becoming more serious, and cause certain HPV cancers.

People who are vaccinated against HPV can also help stop certain types of HPV viruses spreading to people who aren’t vaccinated. For example: people who are too ill for vaccination. This is called herd immunity (or community immunity).

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Why were boys added to the NHS vaccination schedule in 2019?

Boys are at risk of HPV infections, just like girls. There is good scientific evidence that says vaccinating boys will help protect them against certain types of HPV that may cause certain cancers. Vaccinating boys will also help stop the spread of certain types of HPV to unvaccinated girls.

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Why are 12-13-year-old children being given the HPV vaccine?

Vaccinating boys and girls against HPV at the recommended age – school year 8 (aged 12-13 years) – helps protect them against certain types of HPV before they are likely to come in contact with those types of the virus.

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What is HPV?

HPV, or human papillomavirus, is the name for a group of viruses. There are over 200 types of HPV viruses. Around 50 affect the ano-genital area – that’s the area between the penis and the anus in men and the vulva, vagina and anus in women.

  • Certain types of HPV viruses have a higher risk of causing problems, like HPV cancers. HPV types 16 and 18 cause most of the HPV cancers that happen around the world
  • HPV types 6 and 11 cause genital warts
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What diseases can HPV cause?

Most HPV infections don’t cause any problems and go away on their own. When infections caused by certain types of HPV viruses 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 split more than usual and grow out of control.

For example, certain types of HPV virus may cause:

  • HPV cancers, including cancers of the anus, vulva, vagina and cervix
  • Pre-cancerous lesions (areas of cells that are starting to show changes that could become cancer) of the vulva, vagina, cervix and anus
  • Genital warts
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How do you get HPV?

HPV is spread through close skin-to-skin contact with a person infected with a type of the HPV virus. HPV viruses are usually found on the fingers, hands, mouth and genitals.

Most people don’t know they have a HPV virus so they may end up spreading it to others without realising it.

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My child is older than the recommended age for HPV vaccination. Can they still get it?

Older boys: Making sure 12-13-year old boys are offered vaccination against certain types of HPV infection is the priority for the government right now.

Your son will get some protection through something called herd immunity (or community immunity), that has built up through the 10 years of the girls’ HPV vaccination programme. This means that vaccinated people may help stop the spread of certain HPV virus types to unvaccinated people.

If your son can’t receive it on the NHS childhood vaccination schedule, you can speak to your child’s doctor or a pharmacist about your options.

Older girls: Girls can have the HPV vaccination on the NHS vaccination schedule up to their 25th birthday. If your daughter misses a dose or the start of her vaccination course, she can be vaccinated on the catch-up programme at school or at her GP surgery up to the age of 25. Speak to your daughter’s school or her GP to find out how to get her vaccinated on this catch-up programme. Girls who are 15 years and older will need to have 3 doses to get the right protection.

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Is the HPV vaccine for boys a new vaccine?

No, the HPV vaccine for boys isn’t new. Boys are given the same HPV vaccines that have been given to millions of girls in the UK over the last 10 years.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 HPV viruses before they become an infection.

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How would somebody know if they’re infected with HPV?

Most HPV infections don’t have any signs or symptoms. That means most people won’t know they have a HPV virus unless it causes problems.

Cervical screening (sometimes called a smear test), provided by the NHS to women aged 25 to 64, checks for unusual changes in the cells of the cervix. These changes may be caused by a HPV infection. It’s important that all women aged 25 and over go to their cervical screening appointments 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.

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Does HPV vaccination mean girls no longer need to attend cervical screening?

HPV vaccination doesn’t prevent all causes of cervical cancer. That’s why it’s important that all girls who have had the vaccine still go to all of their NHS cervical screening appointments when they’re old enough.

Cervical screening (sometimes called a smear test) 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.

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What is the NHS childhood vaccination schedule?

The childhood vaccination schedule is a service 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 NHS childhood vaccination schedule.

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Is the “cervical cancer vaccine” different to the HPV vaccine?

No, they are the same vaccine. 2 types of high-risk HPV cause 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 cervical cancer. It has always been a vaccination against certain types of HPV.

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How do I make sure my child gets the HPV vaccine?

Boys and girls will be given the opportunity to have the HPV vaccine at school in year 8 when they’re 12-13 years old.

Your child’s school will organise the vaccinations and will send you information and a consent form for you to sign and return. You can also talk to your child’s doctor, practice nurse or school nurse about HPV vaccination.

Some schools might not offer HPV vaccination. If this is the case, you can speak to your child’s doctor or a pharmacist about the options.

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How many injections are needed for the HPV vaccine?

In children aged 12-13 years, the HPV vaccine is given in 2 doses, with at least 6 months between them.

It is usually given as an injection in the upper arm, but sometimes it is given in the upper thigh.

If your child is a girl who is 15 years or more, she will have 3 doses of the vaccine.

It is important that your child has all doses to make sure they get the cover needed to help protect them against certain HPV cancers.

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Are there any side effects to HPV vaccination?

As with any injection, there might be some mild to moderate side effects after having the HPV vaccine. These get better in a few days. 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 – this should go away in a day or two
  • headaches – but these don’t usually last very long

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

The World Health Organization (WHO ) made a statement in March 2017 that, based on their review, there is no evidence that links HPV vaccination to certain chronic (long-lasting) conditions.

If your child experiences any side effects, please speak to their 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 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. You can also report side effects to MSD on 01992 467272 or email

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Where can I find out more about the HPV vaccine?

You can download information leaflets for you and your child in the Downloads section.

You can also speak to your child’s school, their doctor or a pharmacist about HPV vaccination.

Is HPV vaccination just in the UK?

No, HPV vaccination happens around the world. As of October 2018, 85 countries offer HPV vaccination. So far over 270 million doses of HPV vaccines have been distributed worldwide and more than 80 million people have been vaccinated.

What is herd immunity (or community immunity)?

People who are vaccinated against HPV can also help stop certain types of HPV viruses spreading to people who aren’t vaccinated. For example, people who are too ill for vaccination. This is called herd immunity (sometimes called community immunity or herd protection).

Herd immunity means that vaccinated people help protect unvaccinated people from the spread of infectious diseases, like HPV. Lots of people need to be vaccinated for herd immunity to work properly – at least 4 out of 5 people.

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Parents, carers or guardians would usually need to give consent for a child aged 12-13 years to receive the vaccine. School nurses, practice nurses and GPs will always aim to work with parents, carers or guardians where possible. When you get the consent form from your child’s school, you will need to sign it and return it for your child to be vaccinated. You should also sign it and return it if you don’t want your child vaccinated. That way, your decision will be as clear as possible to the school.

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 GP to help you discuss it further.

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What happens if I don’t get my child vaccinated?

Without HPV vaccination, your child will be at risk of certain HPV infections that may cause diseases, like cervical or anal cancer, in the future.

They will also be at risk of spreading certain HPV viruses to other unvaccinated people, including future partners.

While the decision to not vaccinate is personal to you, you should know that your child can make the decision for themselves. This will only happen if a doctor/nurse believes they have a good enough level of understanding about vaccination to consent for themselves. You should work closely with the school if this happens.

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How do I talk about HPV vaccination with my child?

You can download a helpful leaflet about HPV vaccination to give to your child in the Downloads section of this website. It contains important information about HPV viruses and the HPV vaccine.

Top tips for talking about HPV:

  • Reassure them that most HPV infections don’t cause problems and at their age they’re less likely to have caught certain HPV types
  • Explain that the vaccine will help protect them against certain types of a virus called HPV which may cause diseases, like certain HPV cancers
  • Tell them it’s important for them to be vaccinated at 12-13 years to help protect them before they are likely to come in contact with certain HPV types that cause certain HPV cancers
  • Reassure them that the HPV vaccine has been well tested for its safety and that lots of people have had it around the world
  • If they are worried about needles, suggest they try to stay calm by taking some deep breaths and to not look at the injection
Are there other ways to help protect my child against HPV?

HPV viruses and other infections are spread through close skin-to-skin contact, including during sex and sexual activities. HPV vaccination is an effective way to help protect your child against certain types of HPV viruses. There are other ways of helping stop the spread of certain HPV viruses 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.