The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is offered to every S1 pupil in Scotland. Evidence shows the HPV vaccine helps protect pupils from HPV-related cancers.
What is HPV?
HPV is a common virus which usually produces no symptoms. This means that people may not even know they’re carrying the virus.
In most people HPV clears up quickly. But carrying HPV makes you more likely to develop certain types of cancer. It also means you can pass HPV on to others.
HPV is usually spread through intimate sexual contact. Condoms don’t provide complete protection from HPV.
Why should I be vaccinated?
Getting the vaccine now protects you against future risks. The HPV virus can lead to cancers like:
head and neck cancers
anogenital cancers – for example, anal, penile (penis) cancer, cancer of the vagina, and cancer of the vulva
The HPV vaccine also protects you against over 90% of genital wart infections.
Practise safer sex
HPV vaccination does not protect against other infections spread during sex, like chlamydia. It also does not prevent pregnancy. It’s still very important to practise safer sex, even if you’ve had your HPV vaccine.
To give you the best protection, you’ll be offered the vaccine in S1. Your local NHS immunisation team will be in touch with your appointment details. You do not need to do anything to arrange your appointment.
What type of consent do I need to get the HPV vaccine?
You should be given a consent form and leaflet by your school. You and your parent/carer should discuss the information before agreeing to have the vaccine. When you’re given the consent form, you and your parent/carer will be asked to sign it and return it to your school even if you aren’t going to have the vaccine.
We recommend you get agreement from your parent/carer, but it isn’t always necessary.
The vaccine protects against HPV types 16 and 18, which are the cause of most cervical cancers in the UK (more than 80%). The vaccine also protects against types 31, 33, 45, 52 and 58, which cause an additional 15% of cervical cancers.
The statistics on cancers caused by HPV are different from country to country.
The vaccine also protects against 2 other types of HPV. These cause around 90% of cases of genital warts.
HPV vaccination does not protect against other infections spread during sex, such as chlamydia, and it will not prevent pregnancy, so it’s still very important to practise safer sex.
How many doses of the vaccine do I need?
Most people will be offered 1 dose of the vaccine.
In previous years, 2 doses of the vaccine were recommended. Evidence now shows that most people only need 1 dose to give protection.
This means that most young people who’ve already received 1 dose are now fully vaccinated. They don’t require any further doses of the HPV vaccine.
Why are some young people still being offered more than 1 dose?
If your immune system is weakened due to any existing disease or treatment, you may be offered 3 doses of the HPV vaccine. If you have any questions or concerns, speak to the nurse first if you can, or your GP.
How do we know the vaccine is safe?
All medicines (including vaccines) are tested for safety and effectiveness by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
The HPV vaccine meets the high safety standards required for it to be used in the UK and other European countries. This vaccine has been given to millions of people worldwide.
Once they’re in use, the safety of vaccines continues to be monitored by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
After the vaccine
There may be side effects after having the HPV vaccine, but these are usually mild.
The most common side effects of the HPV vaccine are usually felt around the area of the arm where you have had the injection. These can include:
If you do experience any of these side effects, they will wear off after a couple of days.
Other common side effects include:
If you feel unwell after vaccination, take paracetamol or ibuprofen. Make sure you read the instructions on the packet carefully and take the correct dose for your age.
We do not recommend that you take these medicines in advance to prevent a fever from developing.
If you’re under 16, don’t take medicine containing aspirin.
Some people have an allergic reaction soon after immunisation. This reaction may be a rash or itching affecting part or all of the body. The nurse at the vaccination clinic will be able to advise on this.