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The HPV vaccine for boys and men

How does HPV affect boys and men?

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is one of the most common viruses in the world. 4 out of 5 (80%) of us will get some type of HPV at least once in our lives.

Men and women can get HPV. Usually, our immune system gets rid of HPV without needing treatment. We may never know we had it.

Types of HPV

There are over 200 types of HPV. These affect the skin and moist membranes (mucosa). In men, this includes the:

  • anus
  • skin of the penis
  • rectum
  • the lining of the mouth and throat.

About 40 HPV types can affect the genital area. About 13 of these 40 genital HPV types are linked to cancer. These types of HPV are called high-risk. Overall, 5% of all cancers worldwide are linked to high-risk HPV. In men, high-risk HPV infection is linked to some cancers, including:

  • penile
  • anal
  • some head and neck cancers.

We have more information on other HPV-related cancers.

The genital HPV types that are not linked to cancers are called low-risk HPV. In both men and women, low-risk HPV (usually types 6 and 11) can cause genital warts.

Why aren't boys offered the HPV vaccine in schools?

At the moment, the NHS only offers the HPV vaccine free to girls aged 11 to 17 in Scotland and 12 to 17 in the rest of the UK. Only girls aged 11 to 13 in Scotland and 12 to 13 in the rest of the UK are routinely offered the vaccine in schools.

Girls having the HPV vaccine indirectly protects heterosexual boys and men (herd immunity) because girls will not have certain types of HPV so cannot pass it on.

Boys are not currently offered the HPV vaccine in schools. This is because the HPV vaccination programme was introduced to help protect women against cervical cancer, as high-risk HPV causes 99.7% of all cervical cancers. For other cancers, including those that affect men, fewer cases are linked to high-risk HPV. This means the HPV vaccine does not provide as much protection against those cancers.

Will boys and men ever be offered the HPV vaccine?

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is the organisation that advises the government on their immunisation and vaccination programmes. In 2018, the JCVI recommended that boys should also be offered the HPV vaccine. The health departments for each UK country will now decide whether to extend the vaccine to boys:


Will they offer boys the HPV vaccine?




No official timing confirmed.



No official timing confirmed.



No official timing confirmed.

Northern Ireland

Decision pending.


What would be the benefits of offering boys the HPV vaccine?

Offering boys the HPV vaccine would:

  • help protect them against high-risk HPV types 16 and 18 that are linked to:
    • 9 in 10 (90%) cases of anal cancer
    • 4 in 10 (40%) cases of penile cancer
    • some head and neck cancers
  • help protect them against HPV types 6 and 11, that cause around 9 in 10 (90%) cases of genital warts
  • strengthen the herd immunity already provided by vaccinated girls, helping to protect anyone (male or female) who is not vaccinated or under-vaccinated (has not had the required doses).

It is important to remember that not all cases of anal, penile, and certain head and neck cancers are linked to high-risk HPV, so giving boys the vaccine would not fully protect them against these cancers. We have more information about other HPV-related cancers.

How can boys and men currently have the HPV vaccine?

While UK health departments decide if and when to extend the HPV vaccine to boys and men, they can pay to have the HPV vaccine privately. The HPV vaccine works best when your immune system is strongest, which is usually before puberty begins, but there is some evidence that suggests the HPV vaccine could benefit people older than 18. However, it may not be effective for everyone.

The Gardasil, Cervarix and Gardasil 9 vaccines are usually available from travel clinics, local pharmacies and other health centres. People under 15 years old need two separate doses of the HPV vaccine. People older than 15 need three separate doses. Each dose costs around £150.

Different places may only offer the HPV vaccine to people up to a certain age. For example, some pharmacies only offer it to people up to age 45. Check if an age limit applies wherever you want to book an appointment.

Men who have sex with men

Men who have sex with men (MSM) may not have sexual contact with immunised women, so will not benefit from herd protection against high-risk HPV.

The NHS have announced that MSM can have the HPV vaccine in sexual health, GUM and HIV clinics. In England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, there is no lower age limit and you can have the HPV vaccine up to age 45. In Wales, you can have it between the ages of 15 and 45.

Show references

  1. Spence T et al., HPV Associated Head and Neck Cancer, Cancers, 2016.
  2. CRUK, Anal Cancer Statistics, http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/statistics-by-cancer-type/anal-cancer#heading-Three [last accessed: June 2018].
  3. CRUK, Penile Cancer Statistics, http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/statistics-by-cancer-type/penile-cancer#heading-Three [last accessed: June 2018].
  4. Kmietowicz Z., Boys should be given HPV vaccine, says joint committee, BMJ, July 2018



Date last updated: 
20 Jul 2018
Date due for review: 
13 Sep 2019

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