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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

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What happens if my child missed their vaccination because they had COVID-19 or were self-isolating?

Your child can be vaccinated once they, or everyone they live with, are not displaying symptoms of COVID-19, and are not self-isolating because they are contacts of suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases. Please speak to your child’s doctor or school about getting your child booked in for HPV vaccination at a later date.

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How has COVID-19 affected the HPV vaccination programme?

The HPV vaccination programme for children in the 2019-20 school year has been interrupted by COVID-19 school closures. The government advisory committee has recommended that children expecting to receive their first dose are prioritised from September. Children who missed their first dose in the last school year will also be prioritised. Children expecting their second dose will receive it later on – the timing of second doses will depend on your local area and schools’ vaccination services. Look out for information from your child’s school or speak to your child’s doctor.

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Is it safe for my child to be vaccinated during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Vaccines help to protect children from a number of illnesses. Health experts, such as the NHS, advise that children’s immunisation appointments go ahead as planned. The nurses administering the vaccines will be following government guidance on infection prevention and control (i.e. decontamination of areas, wearing and disposal of protective equipment, etc.) to help protect against the spread of COVID-19. Look out for information from your child’s school or speak to your child’s doctor.

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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 types that may cause cancer are called high-risk types.

HPV vaccination helps protect people against certain HPV infections and cancers. This helps stop an infection caused by a high-risk HPV type 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 as part of the NHS childhood vaccination schedule 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 vaccinated as part of a HPV vaccination programme?

Vaccinating boys and girls against HPV as part of the NHS childhood vaccination schedule at the recommended age – school year 8/S1 (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 40 types can affect the genital and anal area.

HPV viruses are grouped as either high-risk types or low-risk types depending on whether they are linked to cancer.

High-risk HPV types: infections caused by high-risk types may lead to certain HPV cancers, like anal cancer or cervical cancer.

Low-risk HPV types: infections caused by low-risk types may cause other HPV-related diseases.

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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 grow out of control.

For example, certain types of HPV virus 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)
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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 can be found on the fingers, hands, mouth or 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 13 years. Can they still get the HPV vaccine on the NHS childhood vaccination schedule?

Boys (born AFTER 1st September 2006):
Your son was 12-13 years old when HPV vaccination for boys was added to the NHS childhood vaccination schedule (1st September 2019). They will be able to receive the HPV vaccine as part of the NHS childhood vaccination schedule up until their 25th birthday.

Girls/women (born AFTER 1st September 1991):
Your daughter was eligible for HPV vaccination when it was introduced to the NHS childhood vaccination schedule in 2008. They will be able to receive the HPV vaccine as part of the NHS childhood vaccination schedule up until their 25th birthday.

Boys (born BEFORE 1st September 2006):
Your son turned 14 before HPV vaccination for boys was added to the NHS childhood vaccination schedule (1st September 2019) so they are not eligible to receive it as part of the NHS childhood vaccination schedule. Speak to your child’s doctor, school nurse, practice nurse or a pharmacist for more information.

Girls/women (born BEFORE 1st September 1991):
Your daughter is not eligible to receive HPV vaccination as part of the NHS childhood vaccination schedule. Speak to your child’s doctor, school nurse, practice nurse or a pharmacist for more information.

Your child may get some protection through something called herd immunity (or community immunity), that has built up through the 12 years of the girls’ HPV vaccination programme. Herd immunity means that vaccinated people may help stop the spread of certain HPV virus types to unvaccinated people.

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Is the HPV vaccine for boys the same as the one the girls get?

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 childhood vaccination schedule. 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 and individuals with a cervix aged 24 ½ to 64, tests for high-risk HPV types and the health of the cervix. It’s important that all women and individuals with a cervix aged 24 ½ 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.

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

HPV vaccination as part of the NHS childhood vaccination schedule helps prevent cervical cancer caused by certain HPV viruses. HPV vaccinations may not protect everyone who receives it. That’s why it’s important that all girls and 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 24 ½ 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 given as part of the NHS childhood vaccination schedule. Two types of high-risk HPV 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 cervical cancer. It has always been a vaccination against certain types of HPV.

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How do I make sure my child is part of the HPV vaccination programme?

Please note the following advice may have changed as a result of COVID-19.

For more information take a look at this FAQ > or speak to your child’s doctor, school or practice nurse, or a pharmacist.

Boys and girls will be given the opportunity to have the HPV vaccine as part of the NHS childhood vaccination schedule at school in year 8/S1 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 or school nurse about the HPV vaccination programme.

Some schools might not offer a HPV vaccination programme. If this is the case, you can speak to your child’s doctor for more information.

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How many injections are needed?

In children aged 12-13 years, the HPV vaccine is given in 2 doses, with at least 6 months between them as part of the NHS childhood vaccination schedule.

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

If your child is 14 years or more, they will have 3 doses of the vaccine as part of the NHS childhood vaccination schedule. Speak your child’s school, doctor, school or practice nurse to find out when and where they can receive their vaccine doses.

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?

As with any vaccines and medicines, HPV vaccinations given as part of the NHS childhood vaccination schedule 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
  • headaches

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 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 at https://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.

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Where can I find out more about the HPV vaccination programme?

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, school or a practice nurse about HPV vaccination as part of the NHS childhood vaccination schedule.

Are HPV vaccination programmes just in the UK?

No, HPV vaccination happens around the world. As of July 2020, 107 countries have introduced a HPV vaccination programme and a further 19 countries have programmes in planning. More than 80 million people have been vaccinated worldwide.

What is herd immunity (or community immunity)?

Herd immunity means that vaccinated people help protect unvaccinated people from the spread of infectious diseases, like HPV.

People who are vaccinated against HPV as part of the NHS childhood vaccination schedule can 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 an example of herd immunity. Lots of people need to be HPV vaccinated for herd immunity to work properly – at least 4 out of 5 people.

Parents, carers or guardians would usually need to give consent for a child aged 12-13 years to receive the vaccine as part of the NHS childhood vaccination schedule. School nurses, practice nurses and doctors 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 doctor to help you discuss it further.

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

Your child could be at risk of certain HPV infections that may cause diseases, like cervical or anal cancer, in the future. They could also be at risk of spreading certain HPV viruses to other unvaccinated people, including future partners.

HPV is a common virus – many of us may catch a type of HPV in our lives. Most HPV infections cause no problems and go away on their own. However, lasting infections of some high-risk HPV types may cause certain HPV cancers. HPV vaccination as part of the NHS childhood vaccination schedule can help protect your child against certain types of HPV.

While the decision to not vaccinate is personal to you, your child can make the decision for themselves. This will only happen if a doctor or 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.

WHY JOIN THE FIGHT?
How do I talk about the HPV vaccination programme with my child?

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

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 as part of the NHS childhood vaccination schedule helps protect against certain types of HPV viruses before children are likely to be exposed to them.

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.

There is no treatment for HPV infections. Most HPV infections cause no problems and clear up on their own.

Women and individuals with a cervix aged 24 ½ to 64 will be invited for cervical screening. Cervical screening tests for certain high-risk HPV virus types and checks the health of the cervix.