The HPV vaccine helps protect against cervical cancer, genital warts and some other types of cancer.
You can book an HPV vaccination at one of our community pharmacies. Keen to learn more? Here we explain what the human papillomavirus (HPV) is, who is at risk of HPV and how you can protect yourself against it.
While you may not have heard of it, the human papillomavirus (HPV) is a very common virus. In fact, over 170 different versions have been identified. It’s also thought that nearly everyone will get an HPV infection at some point in their lives. It is usually harmless, however. In most cases, your immune system will clear the infection naturally and you won’t experience any symptoms. Sometimes the HPV infection can survive and live in your body, resulting in serious symptoms and diseases, like genital warts and cervical cancer.
Nearly everyone gets an HPV infection at some point in their life, but in most cases you don’t realise. Your immune system clears the infection, and you have no symptoms. But if an HPV infection doesn’t go away, it can lead to more serious symptoms and complications. These include:
HPV infections are most often caught through skin-to-skin contact. The longer skin is in contact, the more of a chance the virus has to spread to the other person. Sex is the most common method of transmission.
HPV can be spread by any form of sexual contact, but vaginal and anal sex are the most common ways this happens. HPV can also be passed from a mother to her baby during pregnancy.
Anyone can catch an HPV infection, but you’re most likely to catch it if you are or have been sexually active. Those most at risk include people who:
You can reduce your chances of catching an HPV infection by using condoms. This won’t fully protect you however, as the virus can live on skin around the genitals that isn’t covered by a condom.
The best way to protect yourself against HPV is to have an HPV vaccine. The vaccine gives you lasting protection against the majority of HPV types.
The vaccine contains parts of the HPV virus but not the entire virus. This means the vaccine can’t give you the infection, but allows your immune system to develop the antibodies to kill the virus. If an HPV virus tries to infect you after you’ve been vaccinated, your body will already have the defences to stop it.
It’s best to have the HPV vaccine before you become sexually active. You can also benefit from an HPV vaccine at an older age. This is because there are many types of the HPV virus and the vaccine can protect you even if you’ve already been infected by some of them.
Our HPV vaccination service is suitable for girls and boys between 9 to 26 years of age. You can have the vaccine as long as you:
If you have other questions, or you would like to talk to someone face-to-face, then our pharmacists are happy to answer any questions you have about the HPV vaccine. Find your nearest Well Pharmacy.
You must be at least 16 years old to use our website to book any of our services.
The HPV vaccine is a safe and effective way to protect yourself against HPV infections. As with any medication, vaccines can cause side effects in some people. These side effects tend to be mild and short lasting for the HPV vaccine, like a sore arm where the vaccine was injected. Severe or lasting side effects are extremely rare with vaccinations as they are put through rigorous clinical trials before they’re approved for use and scientists continually monitor the safety of vaccines as they’re in use
When the first HPV vaccines were developed, they were usually only given to girls. Today it’s recommended that boys have the HPV vaccine too, as the vaccine can protect them from infections and lower the risk of developing warts and HPV-related cancers. Vaccinating boys also helps to reduce the spread of HPV infections.
The HPV vaccine is for adults too, up to the age of 26. After this age, the benefit of having an HPV vaccine is usually minimal, as adults over 26 may have already contracted and cleared the most common types of HPV infection.