HPV vaccine for men who have sex with men (MSM)


The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is available to men in Scotland. To be eligible, you must be both

  • aged 45 years and under
  • sexually active with other men

What is HPV?

HPV is a common virus which usually produces no symptoms. Nearly all sexually active people will be infected with HPV at some point in their lives.

Most people do not realise that they’re carrying the virus. For the majority of people, HPV clears up quickly.

Carrying HPV makes you more likely to develop certain types of cancers. These include head and neck cancers and anogenital cancers – for example anal cancer and penile (penis) cancer.

HPV is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STI) in the UK. HPV is usually spread through intimate sexual contact, not just anal and vaginal sex. Genital HPV infections are highly contagious.

Condoms don’t guarantee protection from infection. This is because HPV can be transmitted by skin to skin contact with areas not covered by condoms.

One of the best ways to protect yourself from HPV infection is to get the vaccine.

Why should I be vaccinated?

The vaccine will help prevent HPV infection, which can cause genital warts and certain types of cancer. It’s especially important for those who are living with HIV, and those who have more than one sexual partner.

The HPV vaccine also protects you against over 90% of genital wart infections.

Who will be offered the vaccine?

The HPV vaccine is offered to MSM up to and including 45 years old attending sexual health and HIV clinics across Scotland. This is because MSM attending sexual health and HIV clinics are known to have a higher risk of HPV infection.

Since 2019, the HPV vaccine has been offered to boys in S1 at secondary school. It will take a number of years before direct protection from this programme is seen in MSM.

When will I be vaccinated?

The vaccine is available from sexual health and HIV clinics. Please ask your sexual health doctor or nurse about the other vaccines recommended for MSM that help protect against hepatitis A and B infections.

Find your nearest sexual health service

If you’re unsure about anything, or have any questions about the HPV vaccine for men who have sex with men (MSM), contact:

The vaccine

The HPV vaccine is the most effective way to prevent some HPV related cancers.

What vaccine is used?

The GARDASIL 9 vaccine is used in Scotland.

Gardasil 9 helps protect against 9 types of HPV. These are types 6, 11, 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, 58.

Find out more about the Gardasil 9 vaccination

How effective is the vaccine?

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, like chlamydia, so it’s still very important to practise safer sex.

How many doses of the vaccine do I need?

The number of doses routinely offered by NHS Scotland changed in September 2022. The number you’ll need depends on your age and circumstances.

If you are under 25, you’ll be offered 1 dose of the vaccine.

If you are 25 to 45 years of age, you’ll be offered 2 doses of the vaccine (given at least 6 months apart).

If you have certain long-term health conditions, like HIV, you may be offered 3 doses of the vaccine.

Your health professional will let you know the right dose for you.

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 vaccine meets the high safety standards required for it to be used in the UK and other European countries.

Once they’re in use, the safety of vaccines continues to be monitored by the MHRA.

After the vaccine

After having the vaccine there may be side effects, but these are usually mild.

Side effects

The most common side effect of the HPV vaccine is mild to moderate pain for a short time around the area of the arm where you had the injection. Around the injection area you may also experience:

  • soreness
  • stinging
  • swelling
  • redness
  • mild itching

If you do experience any of these side effects, they’ll wear off after a couple of days.

Other commonly reported side effects are:

  • headaches
  • nausea
  • fever (high temperature)
  • muscle pain
  • fatigue
  • dizziness

If you feel unwell after the vaccination, take paracetamol or ibuprofen. Read the instructions on the packet carefully and take the correct dose. It isn’t recommended that you take these medicines in advance to prevent a fever from happening.

Some people have an allergic reaction soon after vaccination. This reaction may be a rash or itching affecting part or all of the body. The nurse will be able to advise on this.

If you’re worried, trust your instincts. Speak to your GP or phone NHS 24 on 111.

Phone 999 immediately if:

  • you have a fit

If you think you’re seriously ill, trust your instincts and seek urgent medical advice.

Phone your GP immediately if:

  • you have a temperature of 39°C or above

If your GP is closed phone NHS 24 on 111.

Where can I report suspected side effects?

You can report suspected side effects of vaccines and medicines through the Yellow Card Scheme.

This can be done by:

  • visiting the Yellow Card Scheme website
  • phoning the free Yellow Card hotline on 0800 731 6789 (available Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm)

Vaccine Safety Net Member

Public Health Scotland is a proud member of the Vaccine Safety Net and partners with NHS inform to provide reliable information on vaccine safety.

The Vaccine Safety Net is a global network of websites, evaluated by the World Health Organization, that provides reliable information on vaccine safety.

More about the Vaccine Safety Net

Further information including other languages and formats:

Last updated:
23 October 2023

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