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The HPV vaccine is offered to girls and boys aged 11 to 13 as part of the NHS vaccination programme. It is given as an injection (jab or jag) into the upper arm.
The information on this page is for young people and their parents and guardians. It may be useful to use this to start a conversation about the HPV vaccine and ask any questions you have. We have another page about having the HPV vaccine privately as an adult.
On this page:
There are two vaccines used in schools in the UK at the moment:
Gardasil 9 is a new vaccine and will soon be used across the whole of the UK. In England it is being used from the 2022-23 school year. It protects against HPV types:
To minimise wastage, Gardasil may still be used until stocks have run out. Gardasil protects against high risk HPV 16 and 18 and low risk HPV 6 and 11.
As Gardasil 9 is rolled out some children who have had Gardasil for their first dose may be offered Gardasil 9 for their second dose. The two vaccines are considered interchangeable.
Across the rest of the UK, the HPV vaccine offered in schools is Gardasil. Gardasil 9 will start to be used at some point in the 2022-23 school year.
The HPV vaccine is offered free to girls and boys in schools.
It has been offered to girls since September 2008. It has been offered to both girls and boys since September 2019. This is because the evidence shows that the HPV vaccine helps protect both girls and boys from HPV-related conditions and cancers.
In schools, the HPV vaccine is offered to:
This is usually school year 8 in England and Wales, S1 in Scotland, and school year 9 in Northern Ireland.
A dose is a measured amount of something – in this case, the HPV vaccine. The number of HPV vaccine doses you have depends on your age.
The HPV vaccine works best before you are exposed to HPV. As you get older, your response to the vaccine is not as good, so you have more doses to make sure it works as well as possible.
You should have 2 doses in total. You will be able to have your second dose after 6 months. Normally you will complete your doses within 24 months of the first dose.
Most people be offered 2 doses in total. The first dose is offered to all pupils in S1 at secondary school. The second dose is usually offered in S2. You will be able to have your second dose after 6 months. Normally you will complete your doses within 24 months of the first dose.
If you started a three dose course of the HPV vaccine when you were age 15 or over, you may still be offered 3 doses in total. You'll be offered these doses within 6 months of each other. You usually have:
Most people will be able to have the HPV vaccine. You should not have the HPV vaccine if:
If you feel unwell or have a high temperature on the day you are having the HPV vaccine, you should have it on another day instead. This is to avoid confusing the illness with any side effects of the vaccine.
If you are unsure about whether you or a child should have the HPV vaccine, it is best to speak with the school nurse, or a nurse or doctor at your GP surgery.
If you miss the vaccination day, talk to your school. They may be able to invite you to the next vaccination day.
If you are no longer able to have the HPV vaccine in school, you can have it free at your GP surgery up to age 25 in England, Scotland and Wales. This applies to:
You can contact your GP surgery directly about having the HPV vaccine.
If you are not eligible to have the HPV vaccine for free, you can pay to have it privately.
COVID-19 has meant many schools have been closed for different amounts of time. This means the school vaccination programme, which the HPV vaccine is part of, has been disrupted. You may not have been offered the HPV vaccine yet or only had the first dose.
The UK government’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation have said that the priority is for every eligible girl and boy to have the first dose of the HPV vaccine.
You should have been given a consent form and leaflet by your school. Your parent or guardian is asked to sign the consent form, but you can do it yourself. It’s a good idea to read and talk about the information with someone you trust before making a decision about having the HPV vaccine.
Once your consent form has been signed, you will be asked to return it to your school, even if you aren't going to have the vaccine.
We know lots of people get nervous about injections, so you aren’t alone in feeling that way. It may help to know that the injection is over quickly. Here are some tips that might help:
You should also sit down for about 15 minutes after having the HPV vaccine. This gives the school nurse a chance to check that you feel okay.
The HPV vaccine is offered in schools at a young age because:
Some parents and guardians are worried that their child is more likely to become sexually active if they have the HPV vaccine. There is no evidence that this happens.
Since September 2019, boys have been offered the HPV vaccine in schools at the same time as girls. By offering boys the HPV vaccine before exposure to the virus, it will help to protect them against genital warts and some cancers, including anal and penile cancers.
Some men, including men who have sex with men, may be able to have the HPV vaccine for free. Older boys and men can also pay to have the HPV vaccine privately.
A ‘catch up programme’ is would offer the HPV vaccine to all boys between a certain age – for example, 13 and 18 – who have missed having the vaccine. This was done for girls when the HPV vaccination programme started in 2008.
The evidence suggests an HPV catch up programme for older boys is not needed, as they are already benefiting from the indirect protection (known as herd protection) that has built up from 10 years of the girls' HPV vaccination programme. Because of this, the Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations (JCVI) has not recommended a catch up programme for boys.
The HPV vaccine doesn’t protect against all types of HPV, although it does protect against the types that are thought to cause about 7 in 10 (70%) cervical cancers.
This is why cervical screening is an important test even if you have had the HPV vaccine. It can detect HPV and any changes early, so you can get the right care.
If you miss having a dose of the HPV vaccine, you can get it later. Although it is best to follow the recommended schedule, the guidance says you can resume having doses but shouldn’t repeat any you have already had.
You may want more support to help you decide whether to have the HPV vaccine. The NHS in your area has more information that may help:
If you are a parent or guardian, our trained Helpline volunteers can talk the HPV vaccine through with you on 0808 802 8000.
Thank you to all the experts who checked the accuracy of this information, and the volunteers who shared their personal experience to help us develop it.
We write our information based on literature searches and expert review. For more information about the references we used, please contact [email protected]