Human papillomavirus (HPV vaccine)

What is HPV?

HPV is a virus that lives on the skin in and around the whole genital area. It’s a very common infection and more than 70% of unvaccinated people will get it. It can be passed on by any skin-to-skin contact of the genital area. 
There are many different types of HPV and most HPV infections do not cause any symptoms and get better on their own. However, some infections do not clear up and can lead to cancer, whilst others cause genital warts.

The HPV Vaccination

The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is one of the most successful in the world since its launch in 2008. It helps protect against HPV related cancers including:

  • Cervical cancer
  • Some mouth and throat cancers
  • Some cancers of the anus and genital areas

It also helps protect against genital warts.

How effective is the HPV vaccine?

Latest evidence from evaluation of the HPV vaccination programme published in the Lancet in 2021 has shown that the HPV vaccine dramatically reduced cervical cancer rates by almost 90% in women in their 20s who were offered the vaccine at age 12 to 13 years in England, when compared to an unvaccinated population. 

In 2020, the rate of genital warts diagnoses among 15 to 17 year old girls was 95% lower compared to 2016 and a decline of 89% was seen in the same aged heterosexual boys over the same period.

When is the HPV vaccination given?

In England, girls and boys aged 12 to 13 years are routinely offered the HPV vaccination when they're in Year 8 at school. From 1st September 2023, the HPV vaccine will be given in a single dose which offers long-lasting protection.

What to do if you have missed the HPV vaccination?

If your child has missed their HPV vaccine, they should try and catch-up as soon as possible. To arrange this, speak to your school nurse, school immunisation team or GP practice. You remain eligible to receive the vaccine up until your 25th birthday/