The HPV vaccine is being offered to protect against types 16 and 18, which are the two most common types causing cervical cancer. Cervical screening will still be essential to detect changes in the cervix caused by the other types of HPV and women will continue to be invited for screening as normal.
Studies have shown that vaccinated people maintain high levels of protection for at least six years, and it is expected to last many more years. Studies are in place to measure the long-term protection. If a booster dose of the vaccine is necessary later in life you will be informed about this.
To achieve the best protection from HPV, the course should ideally be given before the start of sexual activity, though if a girl is sexually active she can still get the vaccine. It is recommended that the vaccination is given at 12 to 13 years of age to protect as early as possible. Two doses of HPV vaccine at least 6 months apart, usually within 12 months, are recommended up to age 15. Like the vaccinations given to babies, it is important that the course is completed for it to work properly. The side effects are mild – mostly stinging or soreness where the injection is given in the arm, which soon wears off.
The vaccine meets the rigorous safety standards required for it to be used in the UK and other European countries. Very rarely, 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 will know how to treat this. It is not a reason to withhold further HPV vaccinations.
Even more rarely, people can have a severe reaction within a few minutes of the injection with breathing difficulties and collapse. This is called an anaphylactic reaction. It is extremely rare and the nurse or doctor is trained to deal with it. Individuals recover completely with treatment, usually within a few hours.
Who will receive the vaccine?
The vaccination will be offered routinely to girls aged 12 to 13 years, to protect them as early as possible. Therefore the vaccination will be given to Year 9 girls in school.