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What is the HPV vaccine?

Most cervical cancers (99.7%) are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a common virus passed on by skin-to-skin contact. There are over 200 types, each with its own number.

13 types are linked to cancer (high-risk HPV). If high-risk HPV is passed on through skin-to-skin contact in the genital area (genital HPV), it can cause the cells of the cervix to change. These changes are called abnormalities, which may develop into cervical cancer if they are not found or treated. The HPV vaccine aims to stop you getting some types of HPV.

What are the vaccines?

Currently, there are 3 different HPV vaccines licensed in the UK that protect against HPV:

  • Gardasil
  • Cervarix
  • Gardasil 9.

Name of HPV vaccine

HPV types it protects against

Available on the NHS?

Available privately?


  • High-risk HPV 16 and 18
  • Low-risk HPV 6 and 11

Yes, if you are:

  • a girl
  • under 18 years old 

Yes, for boys and girls


  • High-risk HPV 16 and 18



Yes, for boys and girls

Gardasil 9

  • High-risk HPV 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52 and 58
  • Low-risk HPV 6 and 11


Yes, for boys and girls












Read more about who can have the HPV vaccine.

How long does the HPV vaccine work for?

We know the HPV vaccine prevents infection and cervical abnormalities for at least 10 years, but modelling suggests it will last longer. Ongoing studies will show how much longer young women will be protected for.

There is some evidence that the HPV vaccine provides cross-protection against other types of HPV. Cross-protection means it protects against HPV types that are not included in the vaccine, meaning it may offer even more protection than first thought. Research also shows the HPV vaccine could prevent two thirds of cervical cancers in women younger than 30 by 2025. But this will only happen if at least 8 in 10 (80%) people have the HPV vaccine when offered.

Do I need to go for cervical screening if I have had the HPV vaccine?

Although the HPV vaccine protects against 7 out of 10 (70%) cases of cervical cancer, you may get other types of high-risk HPV. Going for cervical screening (a smear test) when invited can help find a high-risk HPV infection or changes to cells (abnormalities) early, before they develop. 

Show references
  1. electronic Medicines Compendium (eMC), www.medicines.org.uk/emc/medicine/19033 [Accessed: April 2018].
  2. electronic Medicines Compendium (eMC), www.medicines.org.uk/emc/medicine/19033 [Accessed: April 2018].
  3. electronic Medicines Compendium (eMC), www.medicines.org.uk/emc/product/7330 [Accessed April 2018].
  4. Harper D et al., HPV vaccines – A review of the first decade, Gynaecologic Oncology, 2017.
  5. Brotherton J, Confirming cross-protection of bivalent HPV vaccine, The Lancet Infectious Diseases, 2017.
  6. Cuzick J et al., Predicted impact of vaccination against human papillomavirus 16/18 on cancer incidence and cervical abnormalities in women aged 20-29 in the UK., British Journal of Cancer, 2010.



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

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