Vaccination

There are two cervical cancer vaccines Gardasil® and Cervarix® which guard against up to 90% of the HPV infections that can cause cervical cancer as well as other cancers in men and women. In the UK, only the Gardasil® vaccine is offered in the National HPV vaccination programme.

From September 2019, in England, all girls and boys aged 12 to 13 years will be routinely offered Gardasil HPV vaccination when they’re in school Year 8. It helps protect against cancers caused by HPV, including: cervical cancer, some head and neck cancers and some anal and genital cancers. It also helps protect against HPV types 6 and 11 that cause 90% of genital warts. The second dose is normally offered 6 to 12 months after the first dose (in school Year 8 or Year 9).

It’s important to have both doses to be protected. If you miss the HPV vaccination in school Year 8 you can have the vaccine up to your 25th birthday. HPV vaccination does not protect against other sexual infections eg. chlamydia, and does not prevent pregnancy, so it’s very important to practise safe sex.

Who can have the HPV vaccine through the NHS vaccination programme?
From September 2019, the first dose of the HPV vaccine will be routinely offered to girls and boys aged 12 and 13 in school Year 8. If you miss either of their HPV vaccine doses speak to your school immunisation team or GP surgery and make an appointment to get up-to-date as soon as possible. It’s important to have both doses of the vaccine to be fully protected.

People who start the HPV vaccination after the age of 15 will need 3 doses as they do not respond as well to 2 doses as younger people do. The HPV vaccine works best if girls and boys get it before they come into contact with HPV, which means before they become sexually active. Most unvaccinated people will be infected with some type of HPV at some time in their life.

HPV vaccination for men who have sex with men (MSM)
From April 2018, MSM up to and including the age of 45 can have free HPV vaccination on the NHS if they visit sexual health clinics and HIV clinics in England. Ask the doctor or nurse at the clinic for more details.

HPV vaccination for transgender people
Trans women (people assigned male at birth) are eligible in the same way as MSM if their risk of getting HPV is similar to the risk of MSM who are eligible for the vaccine. Trans men (people assigned female at birth) are eligible if they have sex with other men and are aged 45 or under. If trans men have previously completed a course of HPV vaccines as part of the girls HPV vaccine programme, no more doses are needed.

How is the HPV vaccine given?
The HPV vaccine is currently given as a series of 2 injections into the upper arm. People 15 and over need 3 doses of the vaccine, the second dose should be given 1 or 2 months after the first, and the third dose should be given within 4- 12 months after the second dose.

How long does the HPV vaccine protect for?
Studies have already shown that the vaccine protects against HPV infection for at least 10 years, although experts expect protection to last for much longer.  HPV vaccine does not protect against all types of HPV that can cause cervical cancer, so it’s important that all girls who receive the HPV vaccine also have regular cervical screening once they reach the age of 25.

In Australia School boys and girls receive Gardasil 9 which protects against nine HPV types which cause around 90% of cervical cancers in women, 95% of all HPV-related cancers in men and 90% of genital warts in both men and women. The research which resulted in the HPV vaccine was originally developed at University of Queensland in Brisbane, Queensland by Professor Ian Frazer and his late colleague, Dr.Jian Zhou. Professor Ian Fraser was awarded Australian of the Year in 2006 for the invention. More than 270 million doses of HPV vaccines have been administered worldwide as of May 2017 and the HPV vaccine has proven to be extremely safe and effective.