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On this page, we answer some common questions about the HPV vaccine.
The HPV vaccine protects against:
Having the HPV vaccine means you are at lower risk of developing these cancers and other HPV-related conditions.
The HPV vaccine is free to girls and boys in schools between the ages of 11 to 13, depending on where they live in the UK.
If you were offered the HPV vaccine but missed it in school, you can have it free up to age 25. You can speak with your local GP about having it.
Some people, like men who have sex with men and transgender people, may be able to have the HPV vaccine free. You can also pay to have the HPV vaccine privately.
Yes. All pupils, including boys, are offered the HPV vaccine free in schools between ages 11 to 13.
In 2018, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which advises UK health departments on immunisation, decided the HPV vaccine should also be offered to boys from September 2019. The HPV vaccine will help protect against a number of HPV-related cancers, including head and neck (oropharyngeal) cancers, penile cancer and anal cancer.
Across the UK, men who have sex with men (MSM) are currently offered the HPV vaccine free. They can have it up to the age of 45.
Transgender people may also be able to have the HPV vaccine for free, depending on their individual situation. In some areas, people who are HIV positive and sex workers have also be able to have the vaccine.
The HPV vaccine is most effective before you begin puberty, as this is usually when our immune system is strongest. This is why the NHS vaccination programme offers the vaccine in schools at ages 11 to 13 in Scotland and 12 to 13 in the rest of the UK.
We know that the HPV vaccine protects against certain high-risk HPV types for at least 10 years, but research suggests protection lasts even longer. Ongoing studies will show exactly how much longer you can expect to be protected for and whether you will need booster shots.
All the HPV vaccines (Gardasil, Cervarix and Gardasil 9) protect against high-risk HPV 16 and 18. These HPV types cause 7 in 10 (70%) cases of cervical cancer. So although the HPV vaccine can’t prevent all cervical cancers, it does protect against the most common HPV types that cause it.
Yes, 2 of the 3 HPV vaccines protect against genital warts. Gardasil, which is used in schools, protects against:
Gardasil 9 also protects against genital warts. Cervarix does not protect against genital warts, but does protect against high-risk HPV types 16 and 18.
Yes! If you are female and have had the HPV vaccine, cervical screening is still important. The HPV vaccine protects against 7 in 10 (70%) cases of cervical cancer, so cervical screening helps find any cell changes (abnormal cells) caused by other HPV types.
The HPV vaccine is very safe. Before any vaccine can be used, clinical trials are done to check things like side effects. Thousands of girls and womenpeople of different ages took part in clinical trials for the HPV vaccine. If any side effects are reported, they are usually common ones that may happen after any injection.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is responsible for making sure that vaccines are safe, which includes collecting and reporting on information from healthcare professionals and people who have had the vaccine.
Currently, there is no vaccine that can treat cell changes (abnormal cells) or cervical cancer. But there are other treatments and care that can help - speak with your healthcare team about what is right for you.
The HPV vaccine cannot get rid of an HPV infection you already have. However, it does prevent infection with other types of HPV and prevents reinfection with the same type. So if you already have HPV it could still benefit you to have the vaccine.
If you have had treatment for cell changes (abnormal cells) or cervical cancer, having the HPV vaccine may lower your risk of new HPV infections and recurrence. More research needs to be done, but it could benefit you to have the HPV vaccine. Ultimately, it is your choice whether to have the HPV vaccine.
Even if your child or someone you know is not sexually active yet, having the HPV vaccine will protect them against certain HPV types for at least a decade. By that time, they may be sexually active and, if not, having the vaccine won’t cause them any harm.
The HPV vaccine can't get rid of an HPV infection you already have. But it does prevent infection with other types of HPV and prevents reinfection with the same type. So if you already have HPV it could still benefit you to have the vaccine.
Recent evidence shows that having the HPV vaccine, even after you have had an infection with HPV, offers women protection from both infection with other HPV types and reinfection by the same type in the future.
The vaccine is available on the NHS up to the age of 25 for girls and boys who were offered it in school. If you are not eligible for the free HPV vaccine, you can pay to have it privately.