Vaccinations

Cervical cancer vaccine

All girls aged 12 to 13 are offered HPV (human papilloma virus) vaccination as part of the NHS childhood vaccination programme. The vaccine protects against cervical cancer. It's usually given to girls in year eight at schools in England.

According to Cancer Research UK, cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women under the age of 35. In the UK, 2,900 women a year are diagnosed with cervical cancer, that's around eight women every day.

Around 970 women died from cervical cancer in 2011 in the UK. It's estimated that about 400 lives could be saved every year in the UK as a result of vaccinating girls before they are infected with HPV.

The HPV vaccine is delivered largely through secondary schools, and consists of three injections over a period of 12 months.

From September 2014, the number of doses of HPV vaccine that girls aged 12 to 13 years will receive, is being reduced from three to two. The two doses will be given at least six, and not more than 24 months apart.

Research has indicated that the HPV vaccine provides effective protection for at least 20 years.

What is HPV?

The human papilloma virus (HPV) is the name given to a family of viruses.

Different types of HPV are classed as either high-risk or low-risk, depending on the conditions they can cause. For instance, some types of HPV can cause warts or verrucas. Other types are associated with cervical cancer.

In 99% of cases, cervical cancer occurs as a result of a history of infection with high-risk types of HPV. Often, infection with the HPV causes no symptoms. 

Read more about HPV.

How is HPV infection spread?

The HPV virus is very common and is easily spread by sexual activity. As much as half the population will be infected at some time in their life. In most cases, the virus doesn't do any harm because your immune system gets rid of the infection. But in some cases, the infection persists and can lead to health problems.

Although most girls don't start having sex until after they're 16 years of age, it's important that they get this protection early enough and a good time is in the teenage years - getting the vaccine as early as possible will protect them in the future.

Using a condom during sex can help to prevent HPV infection. However, as condoms do not cover the entire genital area and are often put on after sexual contact has begun, a condom is no guarantee against the spread of HPV.

Read more about how to prevent HPV infection.

Read more about how to test for HPV infection.

Find out how HPV infection is treated.

Different types of HPV and what they do

There are over 100 different types of HPV, with around 40 types that affect the genital area.

Infection with some high-risk types of HPV can cause abnormal tissue growth as well as other cell changes that can lead to cervical cancer.

Infection with other types of HPV may cause:

For more information see Why is the HPV vaccine needed?

How the HPV vaccine helps

A vaccine called Gardasil vaccine is used in the national NHS cervical cancer vaccination programme. Gardasil protects against the two types of HPV responsible for more than 70% of cervical cancers in the UK.

A bonus of using Gardasil to prevent cervical cancer is that it prevents genital warts too.

Current research suggests the HPV vaccine is protective for at least 20 years.

Which girls should have the HPV vaccination?

The HPV vaccine is part of the NHS childhood vaccination programme and is routinely offered to secondary school girls aged 12 and 13.

It's a safe vaccine and there are very few girls who aren't suitable for HPV vaccination. However, special precautions may need to be taken if the girl being vaccinated has certain health conditions, or has ever had a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis).

Read more about who should have the HPV vaccine.

The HPV vaccine is currently given as a series of three injections within a 12-month period.

From September 2014 the number of doses of HPV vaccine that is given to teenage girls aged 12-13 years will be reduced from three to two spaced at least six months apart.

Learn more about how the HPV vaccine is given.

Cervical screening and the HPV vaccine

Cervical screening is a way of picking up abnormal cells in the cervix before they progress to cancer. It's been shown that early detection and treatment of cervical abnormalities picked up by screening can prevent three-quarters of cervical cancers.

The NHS cervical screening programme involves checking women between the ages of 25 and 64 every three to five years for early cervical abnormalities.

Regular cervical screening is the best way to identify abnormal cell changes in the cervix. So it's important that all girls who receive the HPV vaccine also have regular cervical screening once they reach the age of 25.

Now, read why it's so important for 12-13 year-old girls to receive the HPV vaccination and find out more about the safety of the HPV vaccine.


Page last reviewed: 13/08/2012

Next review due: 13/08/2014

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Comments

The 13 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Crazymaddy said on 11 September 2014

I can't seem to find a concrete answer as to how long gardasil offers protection for - and believe me, I have spent hours and hours researching gardasil for my daughters sakes. Everything is extremely vague, from "several years" to "not sure how long" and some websites say 6 years. So, the possibility of irreversible damage to our daughters that nobody will acknowledge exists all for a few years protection, which may run out before our daughters are sexually active.

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Giuditta said on 10 September 2014

This is not my personal view:

Dr. Dalbergue, a former pharmaceutical industry physician with Gardasil manufacturer Merck, was interviewed in the April 2014
these are his words regarding this vaccine:
"I predict that Gardasil will become the greatest medical scandal of all times because at some point in time, the evidence will add up to prove that this vaccine, technical and scientific feat that it may be, has absolutely no effect on cervical cancer and that all the very many adverse effects which destroy lives and even kill, serve no other purpose than to generate profit for the manufacturers."

You can read the article at:
http://healthimpactnews.com/2014/mercks-former-doctor-predicts-that-gardasil-will-become-the-greatest-medical-scandal-of-all-time/

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CatsDogsHedgehogs said on 30 August 2014

I had the HPV vaccine about a year ago. About a month after the first injection, a raised skin-coloured lump appeared on the same arm I had the jab on. My GP said it was a wart. But around two weeks ago, the 'wart' turned dark green and black on top of the initial pink underneath. Then last week, the top just turned black and sprouted little white hairs. It also bleeds when it gets cold.

I only grew suspicious when I looked up different types of skin infections, cancers etc. when I noticed that some skin cancers are caused by the HPV virus. As far as I'm aware, vaccines contain a small amount of a disease so the body can fight it off later on in life if one was ever to get the disease. That's why I want to know- Is my 'wart' a side effect of my HPV vaccination?

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Giuditta said on 22 August 2014

I want to add that the comment below is not my personal view, neither is this peer review published in a medical journal (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23016780) which states:

"We carried out a systematic review of HPV vaccine pre- and post-licensure trials to assess the evidence of their effectiveness and safety. We find that HPV vaccine clinical trials design, and data interpretation of both efficacy and safety outcomes, were largely inadequate. Additionally, we note evidence of selective reporting of results from clinical trials (i.e., exclusion of vaccine efficacy figures related to study subgroups in which efficacy might be lower or even negative from peer-reviewed publications). Given this, the widespread optimism regarding HPV vaccines long-term benefits appears to rest on a number of unproven assumptions (or such which are at odd with factual evidence) and significant misinterpretation of available data. For example, the claim that HPV vaccination will result in approximately 70% reduction of cervical cancers is made despite the fact that the clinical trials data have not demonstrated to date that the vaccines have actually prevented a single case of cervical cancer (let alone cervical cancer death), nor that the current overly optimistic surrogate marker-based extrapolations are justified. Likewise, the notion that HPV vaccines have an impressive safety profile is only supported by highly flawed design of safety trials and is contrary to accumulating evidence from vaccine safety surveillance databases and case reports which continue to link HPV vaccination to serious adverse outcomes (including death and permanent disabilities). We thus conclude that further reduction of cervical cancers might be best achieved by optimizing cervical screening (which carries no such risks) and targeting other factors of the disease rather than by the reliance on vaccines with questionable efficacy and safety profiles."

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Kathryn at NHS Choices said on 18 July 2014

Dear deddington50

Sorry to hear your daughter became unwell after receiving the HPV vaccination. To help establish whether her ME is vaccination-related or not, do consider reporting it through the yellow card system. You can find out how to do that in this article: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/vaccinations/Pages/reporting-side-effects.aspx
The WHO Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety (GACVS) regularly review the emerging international evidence on the safety of HPV vaccination and issued a statement in March 2014 showing no proven link with autoimmune disease (of which many believe ME is an example). Read the report here: http://www.who.int/vaccine_safety/committee/topics/hpv/dec_2013/en/
Best wishes,
Kathryn Bingham, NHS Choices editor

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deddington50 said on 07 July 2014

In response to Deegm42, my daughter also suffered from a mild bout of post-viral fatigue when she was 9 years old which lasted 6-12 months and from which she appeared to be recovered. We were told that this vaccine was safe and that post-viral fatigue was not a contraindication to receiving this vaccination. In 2010 my daughter received the first two jabs and after both had more severe side effects than she had ever had from any vaccination before and subsequently became ill within a matter of weeks with ME and has been ill for the last three and half years. After trying to attend school part time she has not been able to attend since June 2013. The illness this time has been much more severe (e.g.muscle spasm, chest pains and seizure-like episodes and at times completely bedbound) and we have had to call an ambulance twice.

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Deegm42 said on 17 June 2014

M daughter was diagnosed with ME when she was 9, she's now 14 and in remission, she also has asthma and chronic pain, she wasn't well enough at the time to have the HPV vaccination.

My concerns are should she have it would it set her back, she isn't in full time school so we're trying to avoid anything that would create more days off.

Really am in halves over this so any advice would be greatly appreciated.

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Kathryn at NHS Choices said on 02 April 2014

Dear JuneBuxton123,

I’m sorry to hear of your experience with HPV vaccination.
It sounds like you weren’t told much about the vaccine beforehand and this can lead to worry and confusion later.

You’re right that girls and their parents should find out as much as possible about the HPV vaccination before they have it. All girls are supposed to receive a leaflet about HPV vaccination from their school or GP. This is an example of the type of leaflet: http://www.nhs.uk/Planners/vaccinations/Documents/HPV.pdf

It’s also a good idea to read about the vaccine on websites like this.

Try not to worry that you now have HPV infection. The vaccine can’t prevent all cases of HPV (only about four in five of them) but HPV doesn’t automatically progress to cervical cancer and, even when it does, it can take up to 20 years to do so.

Make sure you look after yourself by attending cervical screening when you become eligible for the programme.

I’ll also be extending our content to include information on what happens for those who develop HPV after vaccination.

Thanks and best wishes,
Kathryn, NHS Choices editor

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JuneBuxton123 said on 24 March 2014

I had the HPV vaccination when i was in year 8. i had a course of 3 needles which were easy and painless and we were more or less told this would prevent us ever getting HPV. i didnt know what the vaccination was for at the time i was told it was for cervical cancer, only later was i told that it was in fact a HPV vaccination and i hadnt even heard of it so i didnt ask questions. that was 4 years ago or so. last week i noticed problems down below and with me being sexually active i went straight to my sexual health clinic and was told i had HPV. that was 2 days ago, i got told all about HPV but they spared to tell me anything to do with cancer, through my own research i found tons of evidence that HPV can in fact lead to cervical cancer, oral cancer, head cancer and neck cancer and im sure various other ones but cant think from the top of my head. i am 17 and was not offered a cervical screening due to my age (which i find absolutely disgusting) i checked the symptoms and i have around 7 symptoms so would consider all of this a massive shock. i am going through treatment over the next 4 month which is very painful, degrading and uncomfortable. i didnt know anything about this virous, what my vaccinations were for or what this virus could lead on to. i am going to my GP to ask advice on cervical cancer as i am at moderate risk. Teach these girls what youre putting into their bodies, let them know exactly what it is for and dont pretend this will 100% prevent it. these girls need to be prepared for things like this and i had no knowledge of it what so ever. No this vaccination does not prevent HPV and yes you can get cervical cancer but i and many other girls were never told this. remember the young girls who are getting the vaccinations are 12-13 mostly, they wont know anything about it. girls be careful with yourselfs, please dont make the mistakes i made...and mothers keep your girls safe and make sure they know all about HPV and cervical cancer. x

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Kathryn at NHS Choices said on 24 March 2014

Dear Teenagehealthfreak,

Please see your GP for a review. Your symptoms may or may not be related to your immunisations. It's important for your GP to assess them further.

Kathryn, NHS Choices editor

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Teenagehealthfreak said on 24 February 2014

I am in year 9 at school now but did have the HPV jab. The first one was quite painful but the other two weren't nearly as bad. However, I have read up on the side effects and my symptom doesn't seem to be on there.

In 2 months time, I will have had my third jab exactly a year ago, and though the pain from raising my arm, the stinging and the bleeding have gone, sometimes I still get an achy pain in the spot where I had two of the jabs. It's kind of short and sharp and it only lasts a second, but is quite painful. The side effects are only supposed to last a week but a year later my arm is still very tender and achy. Can someone help me and tell me what's going on as I don't think this is normal.

I also can't scratch my arm where the jab is as it aches for ages afterwards and is extremely painful. Is this normal, and if not can somebody explain my symptoms?

Teenagehealthfreak xx

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Mrs Halliday said on 14 May 2013

I requested this information from Cancer Research and their response is below:

1. Please supply figures for the number of females who were diagnosed with Cervical Cancer, in the UK, which was attributed to the HPV strains 16 and 18 between 1 January 2007 and 31 December 2012.

2. Please supply figures for the number of females who were diagnosed with Cervical Cancer, in the UK, which was attributed to the HPV strains 16 and 18 between 1 January 2007 and 31 December 2012 and who
subsequently died from those strains.

REPLY:

“Unfortunately there are no routinely available sources of information on the HPV status of cervical cancer cases in the UK, although this should be available in future.

Therefore the information you requested does not exist for the period you are interested in, as applied to the whole UK population.

However, various research studies have been conducted, which point to around 70% of cervical cancer cases being caused by HPV 16 or 18. "

Statistical Information Team
Cancer Research UK

I would point out that the last paragraph does not state if this applies to the UK as a whole, world wide, or third world countries. Nor does it state the ages.

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Steve CA7 said on 17 February 2013

Recent press coverage of the HPV vaccine
(above article). This article refers to my daughter. Although the Paediatric Consultant first thought that she had extreme/severe CFS/ME she never made a confirmed diagnosis. Also I am not aware of a single CFS/ME patient that remained in a constant coma-like sleep for 13 weeks. The MHRA has not kept this case under close review as far as we are aware. One Paediatric Consultants has committed in writing the following statement: “IT IS QUITE POSSIBLE IT WILL TURN OUT TO BE A REACTION TO THE HPV VACCINE”. Our GP following a conversation with another Paediatric Consultant has recorded “SHE THINKS IT HAS NOT BEEN ME BUT A REACTION TO THE INJECTION”.
The Department of Health and NHS insist it is totally coincidental with the HPV vaccine even though the cause of the illness is a total mystery and despite the fact that my wife was called to collect our daughter from school immediately after the vaccine was given because she was unwell. There is a complete medical history of deterioration from that morning.

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