HPV Vaccine

HPV Vaccine

The HPV vaccine helps protect against cancers caused by human papillomavirus . HPV is the name given to a very common group of viruses, some of which are called “high risk” because they ae linked to the development of cancers, such as cervical cancer, anal cancer, genital cancers, and cancers of the head and neck. The HPV vaccine also helps protect against genital warts.

HPV infections do not usually cause any symptoms, and most people will not know they are infected.

How is the HPV vaccine given?

The HPV vaccine is currently given as a series of 2 injections into the upper arm.

At what age should children have the HPV vaccine?

  • The first dose of the HPV vaccine is routinely offered to girls and boys aged 12 and 13 (School Year 8).
  • The second dose is normally offered 6 to 12 months after the first dose (School Year 8 or 9).

It is important to have both doses of the vaccine to be fully protected.

  • Children who miss either of their HPV vaccine doses should speak to their child health nurses or GP and make an appointment to get up-to-date as soon as possible.
  • Those who were eligible for HPV vaccination in school Year 8 but  missed it can still be vaccinated up to their 25th birthday.

Children 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. For those who need 3 doses of the vaccine:

  • the second dose should be given at least 1 month after the first
  • the third dose should be given ideally within 12 months of the second dose

Why is the HPV vaccine given at such a young age?

HPV infections can be spread by any skin-to-skin contact and are usually found on the fingers, hands, mouth and genitals. This means the virus can be spread during any kind of sexual activity, including touching.

The HPV vaccine works best if girls and boys get it before they come into contact with HPV; therefore getting the vaccine when recommended will help protect them during their teenage years and beyond.

How does the HPV vaccine work?

Currently, the Gibraltar Health Authority HPV vaccination programme uses a vaccine called Gardasil that protects against 4 types of HPV: 6, 11, 16 and 18.

Why is the HPV vaccine given at such a young age?

HPV and are usually found on the fingers, hands, mouth and genitals and infections can be spread by any skin-to-skin contact  (i.e. the virus can be spread during any kind of sexual activity, including touching).

The HPV vaccine works best if girls and boys get it before they come into contact with HPV (before they become sexually active).

How safe is the HPV vaccine ?

The HPV vaccine has been used worldwide for many years; and more than 80 million people have been vaccinated.  As with all medicine and vaccines, there are some mild side effects associated with the HPV vaccination.

Very common side effects include:

  • redness, swelling or pain at the site of the injection 
  • headaches 

Common side effects include:

  • bruising or itching at the site of the injection
  • a high temperature or feeling hot and shivery
  • feeling sick (nausea)
  • pain in the arms, hands, fingers, legs, feet or toes
  • Some people may feel dizzy or faint 

Rare side effects include:

  • an itchy red rash (hives)

Very rarely a person who has the vaccine may experience difficulty breathing and restriction of the airways.

How long does the HPV vaccine protect for?

Studies have shown that the vaccine protects against HPV infection for at least 10 years.

However, because the HPV vaccine does not protect against all types of HPV that can cause cervical cancer, it is important that all girls who receive the HPV vaccine also have regular cervical screening once they reach the age of 25.

Who should delay  getting the vaccination?

People who are unwell and have a high temperature, or are feeling hot and shivery should delay getting the HPV vaccination. There is no reason to delay vaccination for a mild illness, such as the common cold.

Who should not be vaccinated?

The HPV vaccine should not be given to people who:

  • have had a severe allergic reaction to a previous dose of the HPV vaccine or any of its ingredients
  • are pregnant

What if you miss your vaccine?

Anyone who misses either dose of their HPV vaccine when they became eligible in school Year 8 should contact their child health nurse or GP and make an appointment to get up to date as soon as possible.