HPV (Human Papillomavirus) causes around 9,000 cancers each year in the UK, most of which can be prevented by having the HPV vaccine. HPV is responsible globally for 5% of all cancers.
About the HPV vaccine
Gardasil activates the immune system to produce antibodies against 4 types of HPV (human papilloma virus). It does this by pretending to look like the virus. The vaccine does not contain any of the virus itself. It is highly effective and is endorsed by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
More than 270 million doses have been given globally and up to 60 million doses were given in 2020 alone, with no serious adverse events linked to the HPV vaccine and with an excellent safety profile. Extensive data on the safety of HPV vaccines is available from clinical trials and population programmes.
Why is my child being offered this vaccine?
The vaccine works best when given at age 12-13, when the immune system is strong and before your son or daughter becomes sexually active.
Only two doses are needed (instead of three) if the vaccine is given before the age of 15. Both boys and girls need to get this vaccine because HPV infection is so common and some types of HPV cause cancer.
Almost 90% of people get HPV infection if they are not vaccinated and there is no treatment for HPV infection. Most people’s immune systems are able to clear HPV viruses in about 12 months and most people who catch HPV don’t even know they have it. However, there are some types of HPV infection that can persist for decades, and these are the types that can cause cancers in both women and men. So, vaccinating people against HPV protects them from cancers caused by some types of HPV that don’t clear up on their own.
What does the vaccine protect against?
In females: cervical cancer, vulvar and vaginal cancer, anal cancer, genital warts, cancers of the head and neck such as throat and oral cancers.
In males: it protects against anal cancer, genital warts, penile cancer and cancers of the head and neck such as throat and oral cancers.
How safe is the vaccine?
The HPV vaccination is very safe. This has been established through rigorous testing and many millions of doses delivered across the world. As with any medicine some people may experience side effects, but these are generally mild and of short duration and are far outweighed by the benefit of vaccination.
Researchers in the UK, the US, Scandinavia, Australia and several other countries have checked millions of medical records to see if people who get the HPV vaccine are more likely to suffer from rare health problems. They found that just as many unvaccinated people suffer from rare health problems as vaccinated people do. That means the vaccine can’t be the cause of their health problems — even if they started very soon after vaccination. (1) (WHO, Meeting of the GACVS, 7-8 June 2017. Weekly Epidemiological Record 2017;28:393-404)
Find NHS information on the HPV vaccine here:
Find NHS Universal HPV programme leaflet here:
Find NHS ‘A Guide to HPV’ in British Sign Language here:
Teenage immunisations for ages 14 to 18 (English and translations):
For information about the vaccines we provide, click on a link below:
DTP & Meningitis ACWY
Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio teenage booster vaccine
Protection (up to 80%) against severe forms of childhood TB, such as TB meningitis
The HPV (human papilloma virus) vaccination protects against cervical cancer
The nasal spray works even better than the injected flu vaccine with fewer side effects