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Who should have the HPV vaccine?

There are 2 human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination programmes in England.

One is for children who are 12 to 13 years of age, and one is for men who have sex with men (MSM) up to 45 years of age.

The universal HPV vaccination programme

In England, all boys and girls aged 12 to 13 years (born after 1 September 2006) are routinely offered the 1st HPV vaccination when they're in Year 8 at school. The 2nd dose is offered 6 to 24 months after the 1st dose.

If you’re eligible and miss the HPV vaccine offered in Year 8 at school, it’s available for free on the NHS up until your 25th birthday for:

  • girls born after 1 September 1991
  • boys born after 1 September 2006

Contact your school immunisation team or GP surgery.

The vaccine is effective at stopping people getting the high-risk types of HPV that cause cancer, including most cervical cancers and some anal, genital, mouth and throat (head and neck) cancers. 

It's important to have both doses to be properly protected.

Who should not be vaccinated?

The HPV vaccine should not be given to people who:

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

Who should delay vaccination?

HPV vaccination should be delayed for people who are unwell and have a high temperature, or are feeling hot and shivery.

This is to avoid confusing the symptoms of the illness with the response to the vaccine.

There's no reason to delay vaccination for a mild illness, such as the common cold.

What if you miss your vaccine?

Anyone who misses either of their HPV vaccine doses when they became eligible in school Year 8 should speak to their school immunisation team or their GP surgery. They should make an appointment to get up to date as soon as possible.

If you have the 1st dose of the HPV vaccine at 15 years of age or over, you'll need 3 doses to be fully protected. Having 2 doses is not as effective for older people.

The HPV vaccine and men who have sex with men (MSM)

The longstanding HPV vaccination programme in girls indirectly protects boys against cancers and genital warts linked to infection with HPV because girls will not pass HPV on to them.

MSM have not benefited in the same way from the girls' HPV vaccination programme.

But they're at risk of cancers linked to infection with HPV types 16 and 18 that affect men, such as cancer of the anus, penis, mouth or throat.

MSM are also at risk of genital warts caused by HPV types 6 and 11.

MSM up to and including the age of 45 are eligible for free HPV vaccination on the NHS when they visit sexual health or HIV clinics.

MSM aged 15 and over need 3 doses of the vaccine. Those under 15 need 2. It's important to have all doses to be properly protected.

Ask the doctor or nurse at the clinic for more details.

Transgender people and the HPV vaccine

Some transgender people are also eligible for the HPV vaccine.

Trans women (people who were assigned male at birth) are eligible for the HPV vaccine if their risk of getting HPV is similar to the risk of MSM who are eligible for the HPV vaccine.

Trans men (people who were assigned female at birth) are eligible if they have sex with other men and are aged 45 or under.

If trans men have previously completed a course of HPV vaccination as part of the girls' HPV vaccine programme, no further doses are needed.

Ask the doctor or nurse at the sexual health or HIV clinic for more details.

Page last reviewed: 10 May 2019
Next review due: 10 May 2022