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HPV vaccine side effects

Most people who have the HPV vaccine do not have side effects. Side effects that are reported after having the HPV vaccine are usually the type reported after any injection.

The information on this page is about the HPV vaccine called Gardasil, which is offered in schools. It explains why the HPV vaccine is safe to have, as well as side effects linked to the vaccine and how to report them. 

On this page:

Is the HPV vaccine safe?

The HPV vaccine has been approved for use. Between 2008 and 2019, more than 10 million doses of the HPV vaccine were given in the UK.

A vaccine can only be used if tests show:

  • it is safe and effective
  • the benefits outweigh any risks.

These tests are called clinical trials and involve thousands of people having the vaccine. 

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) was responsible for looking at the data from the trials. The data showed the HPV vaccine is safe, so the EMA approved a license for it to be used in the UK.

The HPV vaccine’s safety is monitored by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

What are the side effects of the HPV vaccine?

The HPV vaccine may cause side effects. Most side effects are the type reported shortly after any injection – for example, having pain where the injection was given. 

If you feel very ill after having the HPV vaccine, it is important to seek medical attention straight away.

Not everyone who has the HPV vaccine will have side effects.

Some vaccine side effects, such as a fever, can be similar to COVID-19 symptoms. You can get information about COVID-19, including symptoms, testing and self-isolation from the NHS in your area:

Very common side effects

More than 1 in 10 people who have the HPV vaccine have:

  • pain, redness or swelling where the injection is given
  • a headache.

Any pain, redness or swelling should get better after a few days. If you have a headache, it shouldn’t last for more than a few hours.

Common side effects

Fewer than 1 in 10 people who have the HPV vaccine have:

  • bruising or itching at the injection site
  • painful arms, hands, fingers, legs feet or toes
  • a high temperature or feeling hot and shivery (fever)
  • sickness (nausea).

Rare side effects

Fewer than 1 in 1,000 people who have the HPV vaccine have:

  • an itchy red rash (hives).

Very rare side effects

Less than 1 in 10,000 people who have the HPV vaccine have:

  • difficulty breathing (bronchospasm).

Other side effects

  • Feeling dizzy or fainting (syncope). It is not unusual for people to feel faint before or after having the HPV vaccine. This is often because people feel nervous about having the injection, rather than being caused by the HPV vaccine itself. It can help to sit down for about 15 minutes after having the vaccine. 
  • Severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis). It is rare to have a severe allergic reaction to the HPV vaccine and nurses are fully trained to deal with them. The Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety (GACVS) characterise the risk as about 1.7 severe allergic reactions for every 1 million doses.

Some people have reported other side effects after having the HPV vaccine. However, because these don’t come from controlled clinical studies, we can’t say whether they are definitely related to having the HPV vaccine, how often they happen or how many people have these side effects.

How do I report HPV vaccine side effects?

If you have any side effects after having the HPV vaccine, you should tell your doctor or nurse.

You can report any side effects that you think may be linked to the HPV vaccine using the Yellow Card Scheme. This helps us understand more about the vaccine, potential side effects and how to respond to them. You can phone the free Yellow Card hotline on 0808 100 3352 or report side effects online. The scheme is run by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). 

Visit the Yellow Card Scheme website >

HPV vaccine side effects FAQs

You may have seen reports in the media claiming the HPV vaccine causes serious side effects, including:

  • paralysis or Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS)
  • postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS)
  • myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) or chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)
  • chronic regional pain syndrome (CRPS)
  • infertility or early menopause
  • death. 

All of these claims have been looked into by independent researchers as well as the health bodies who approve vaccines. There is no evidence that links having the HPV vaccine to developing these conditions. Research has shown the HPV vaccine is safe.

We know that hearing these claims can be worrying, so if you want to talk anything through, we are here. You can call our free Helpline on 0808 802 8000.

How we can help

We hope the evidence on this page has helped answer your questions about the safety of the HPV vaccine. But if you have others, or want to talk anything through, we are here to help. Our free Helpline has trained volunteers you can call on 0808 802 8000 or email. 

Email our Helpline >

You can also submit a general question about HPV vaccine safety or side effects to our panel of experts. They can’t give you answers about your individual situation or health – it’s best to speak with your GP or nurse for that.

Use our Ask the Expert service >

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.

References

  • World Health Organisation (2017). Safety update of HPV vaccines. Web: https://www.who.int/vaccine_safety/committee/topics/hpv/June_2017/en/. Accessed October 2020. 
  • Merck Sharp & Dohme Limited (2019). Package leaflet: Information for the user. Gardasil® suspension for injection in a pre-filled syringe.
  • Loharikar, A. et al (2018). Anxiety-related adverse events following immunization (AEFI): A systematic review of published clusters of illness. Vaccine. 36;2. pp.299-305.
  • Hviid, A. et al (2020). Association between quadrivalent human papillomavirus vaccination and selected syndromes with autonomic dysfunction in Danish females: population based, self-controlled, case series analysis. BMJ. 370;8258. m2930.
  • Andrews, N. et al (2017). No increased risk of Guillain-Barré syndrome after human papilloma virus vaccine: A self-controlled case-series study in England. Vaccine. 35;13. pp.1729-1732.
  • Arana, J. et al (2017). Reports of Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome After Human Papillomavirus Vaccination in the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, Journal of Adolescent Health. 61;5. pp.577-582.
  • Feiring, B. et al (2017). HPV vaccination and risk of chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis: A nationwide register-based study from Norway. Vaccine. 35;33. pp.4203-4212.

We write our information based on literature searches and expert review. For more information about the references we used, please contact [email protected]

Read more about how we research and write our information >

Contact us

If you're worried about the HPV vaccine or potential side effects, our Helpline is here for you on 0808 802 8000 or over email. 

Email our Helpline
Date last updated: 
16 Dec 2021
Date due for review: 
16 Dec 2024
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