Skip to main content

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 gay, bisexual and other 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.

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

The longstanding HPV vaccination programme for girls indirectly protected boys against cancers and genital warts linked to infection with HPV because girls would not pass HPV on to them.

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

But MSM are at increased risk of cancers linked to infection with HPV types 16 and 18, 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 a specialist sexual health service (called SHS) or HIV clinic.

From 1 April 2022, MSM need 2 doses of the vaccine, given 6 months apart. It's important to have both doses to be properly protected.

MSM who are HIV positive or have a weakened immune system (immunosuppressed) need to have 3 doses of the HPV vaccine.

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

Transgender people and the HPV vaccine

Transgender people are eligible if their risk of getting HPV is similar to that of MSM who are eligible for the HPV vaccines.

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 specialist sexual health service (SHS) or HIV clinic for more details.

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