All girls between the ages of 12 and 18 should get this vital vaccine. It shields them from the most common cancer in women under the age of 35 – cervical cancer. HPV stands for human papillomavirus – this virus is responsible for most cases of cervical cancer – and the HPV vaccine protects girls from it.
In England, girls are offered the vaccination in Year 8 – that’s when they’re 12 or 13. The first dose is followed by a second dose, six or twelve months afterwards. It’s important that girls get both doses, for full protection.
Are there girls who shouldn’t have the vaccination?
There are a small number of girls for whom the vaccination isn’t suitable. If they have had severe reaction to a previous dose (anaphylaxis), or to any of the ingredients in the vaccine, they shouldn’t be vaccinated. It’s also not suitable for young women who are pregnant.
If girls don’t feel well, have shivers, or are hot and have a raised temperature, the vaccine will be postponed until they are better. This is so that the illness doesn’t get confused with a reaction to the vaccine. However, an ordinary mild illness such as a cold is not a reason to delay the vaccination.
What if the vaccination is missed?
Girls who miss getting either dose of the vaccine need to contact their GP or the immunisation team at their school as soon as possible, to get an appointment.
Girls who haven’t had the first dose of the vaccine before the age of 15 will need three doses, not two. Two doses aren’t as effective in older girls. So that’s another reason to make sure that the vaccination is done as soon as it is offered, and that both doses are taken.
The vaccine means you don’t need so many smear tests
The Guardian newspaper reported recently that if you have had the vaccination, you may need only three cervical smear tests in your lifetime, instead of the 12 that women are currently advised to have.
Home STI kits in London, from Greenwich Sexual Health, allow young women to test themselves for sexually transmitted infections.
However, it’s not possible to test for the HPV virus that causes cervical cancer – this will be done during a routine cervical smear test.