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The HPV vaccine and who it's for

​​Who the HPV vaccine is for and when it's given

The human papilloma virus ​(HPV) vaccine is offered at school to all Year 8 pupils aged 12 to 13. The vaccine works best when it's given at this age.  

It's given by school nurses in the upper arm. To provide long term​ protection,​ a course of 2 injections is nee​ded, given 6 months apart. 

The first injection is given during the first school term, usually September or October. The second injection is given 6 months later, usually in March or April​​.​

Human papilloma virus (HPV) and what it does

HPV is a common virus that is sexually transmitted. Most people will be infected by HPV at some time in their life. For most people, their immune system will clear the infection. Some people, however,  won't clear the infection and this can lead to the development of certain cancers.

In women, HPV causes almost all cases of cervical cancer.  Women who don’t clear HPV infection may develop pre-cancerous changes to the cells of the cervix. If the cell changes aren't treated, these can develop into cervical cancer.

In men, HPV can cause more rare cancers, such as cancer of the anus, penis, head and neck.

What the HPV vaccine protects against

The HPV vaccine is effective at stopping people getting the types of HPV infection that cause most cervical cancers and some anal and genital cancers and cancers of the head and neck.

Girls who have the HPV vaccine reduce their risk of getting cervical cancer by over 70%. It protects against:

  • HPV types 16 and 18 that cause more than 74% of cervical cancer cases
  • HPV types 6 and 11 that cause about 90% of cases of genital warts

From September 2019, boys will be offered HPV vaccine in school year 8 at the same time as girls.  This will protect boys against:

  • HPV types 16 and 18 that can cause cancers affecting men, such as cancer of the anus, penis, head and neck
  • HPV types 6 and 11 that cause about 90% of cases of genital warts

Since HPV vaccine was introduced for girls in 2008, this has indirectly helped to protect boys against these types of cancer and genital warts because vaccinated girls will not pass HPV on to them. This is known as herd protection.

The number of genital wart infections in the UK has already fallen in both girls and boys because of the girls' vaccination programme.

A catch-up vaccination programme for older boys is not necessary as evidence suggests they're already benefitting greatly from the indirect protection that's built up from over 10 years of the girls' HPV vaccination programme.

More​ information about the HPV vaccine is available on the NHS Choices website.

​Vaccine safety

We use the Gardasil brand of the vaccine, the same as the UK. 

The vaccine had extensive studies and clinical trials before it was licensed for use and, like all medicines, continues to be monitored. ​

Tens of millions of doses have been given around the world and it's safety is well established.​ You can find out more about the HPV vaccine safety on NHS Choices website​.

​Side effects of the vaccination​

As with all vaccinations, it's not uncommon to experience mild soreness in the arm. This wears off within a day or two. ​More serious side effects are extremely rare. 

More information a​bout side effects is available on the NHS Choices ​website.

Cervical screening (smear​ tests)

The HPV vaccine doesn't protect against all types of HPV. 

It's important you still attend for cervical screening (smear tests) when you reach age 25.​​ We anticipate that in the future, women who received HPV vaccine as schoolgirls, will require fewer cervical screening tests in their lifetime compared to those who did not receive HPV vaccine.

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