Protect yourself against several strains of the human papilloma virus

The human papilloma virus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection. In many cases, infection does not cause any symptoms, but it can cause genital warts, and even lead to genital cancers, including cervical cancer (the second most common form of cancer in young women).

HPV is transmitted during sexual contact. The infection often clears by itself due to your body’s immune response. In some cases, however, the infection persists and remains unnoticed. In these cases, it could lead to cancerous lesions. HPV is the most common cause of cervical cancer and infection with certain types of HPV greatly increases your risk of getting cervical cancer.

The use of condoms reduces your risk of contracting HPV. However, condoms are not 100% effective at preventing HPV infection as the virus can be present on the skin in the entire genital area.

Health Plus Pharmacy operate a convenient HPV vaccination service for both women and men. Anyone up to and including the age of 45 can use this service, if they would like to start a course of the HPV vaccine or complete a course that was started at school. For men, the vaccination will help prevent against the most common cause of genital warts, and it also protects against some types of cancer.

Almost everyone can have the HPV vaccine. It is not suitable for pregnant women but it is suitable for breastfeeding women. We do not provide the vaccine to men and women over the age of 45.

Book an appointment with your local Health Plus Pharmacist to keep you safe.

About the HPV vaccine

Price: £165 per dose

Doses per course: 2 - 3

Price per course: £330 - £495

Who can get vaccinated?: It is best to get vaccinated before you have sex for the first time as this means you are protected before you are first exposed to HPV. You will still benefit from the vaccine if you have had sex.

Boosters: Boosters are not currently recommended.

How it is given: the HPV vacinne is given as an injection in the upper arm.

Side effects: You may experience mild side effects, such as dizziness, nausea, headache or fever.

Age restrictions: The HPV vaccine (Gardasil 9) is suitable for children over the age of nine, and women and men up to the age of 45.

Additional precautions: Use a condom every time you have sex to reduce the chance of catching HPV as well as other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Women should attend cervical screening (smear tests) regularly.

What does the recent schedule change mean?: The NHS has changed it’s guidance on how many HPV vaccinations are required. If you are starting a new course most people will only require 2 doses, if you started a course before 1st April you should continue on your current schedule. Your nurse will be able to advise the most appropriate schedule for you. More information can be found in our FAQs.

About the HPV vaccination

The HPV vaccine is offered to children between the ages of 12 and 13 as part of the NHS vaccination programme but it is also recommended for men and women up to and including the age of 45 in order to help protect them against these diseases. Anyone up until age 25 is eligible to receive the vaccine for free on the NHS.

The HPV vaccine (Gardasil 9) protects against the HPV types 6, 11, 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52 and 58. Types 6 and 11 cause 90% of genital warts. Genital warts are benign growths which occur in the genital area. They are not dangerous but they need to be treated, and you can also pass them onto other sexual partners. Once you have been infected, you may remain contagious for life and the warts can recur at any point in life, especially if your immune system is weakened. Types 16 and 18 (and others) are the primary cause of cervical cancer in women and they are also associated with cancers of the vagina, throat, penis and anus.

HPV is an extremely common infection and over three quarters of sexually active women contract it at some point in their lives.

HPV vaccination schedule

Patients who started their HPV schedule before 1st April 2022 should continue on the planned 3 dose schedule in line with The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) guidance.

Those who started before 1st April 2022 whose schedule is interrupted or delayed for an interval of 6 months or more between their first and second dose, can have the option to complete as a 2 or 3 dose schedule if applicable.

New patients can choose to follow a 3-dose schedule (dose two at 4 weeks, third dose 4-6 months following), or follow the updated guidance with a two-dose schedule (second dose 6-24 months after the first). The two-dose schedule is “off-label” as it is different to the terms of its license.

For existing patients, if you would like to discuss this in more detail, contact us via phone or alternatively please book an appointment.

If your schedule requires changing and you have pre-paid for the course of the HPV vaccine (Gardasil 9), Health Plus Pharmacy will refund the third dose at £139.  Please book a Nurse call back appointment by calling 01495 762 291 if this applies to you, please DO NOT go to the clinic without an appointment as the nurse may not be available to support you.

How effective is the HPV vaccination

Studies have shown that the vaccine protects against HPV infection for at least 10 years, although experts expect protection to last for much longer.

But because the HPV vaccine does not protect against all types of HPV that can cause cervical cancer, it’s important that all women who receive the HPV vaccine also have regular cervical screening once they reach the age of 25.

How is the HPV vaccination given

The HPV vaccine is given as an injection. The injections are given in the upper arm. Although the vaccine is usually tolerated well, redness and soreness at the injection site may occur.

Who should have the HPV vaccination

Health Plus Pharmacy operate a convenient vaccination service for both women and men. Anyone up to and including the age of 45 can use this service, if they would like to start a course of the HPV vaccine or complete a course that was started at school. For men, the vaccination will help prevent against the most common cause of genital warts, and it also protects against some types of cancer.

Almost everyone can have the HPV vaccine. It is not suitable for pregnant women but it is suitable for breastfeeding women. We do not provide the vaccine to men and women over the age of 45.

It is licensed for use in children from the age of 9.

Who cannot have the HPV vaccination

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

You cannot have the vaccine if you are allergic to any of the ingredients:

  • Sodium chloride
  • L-histidine
  • Polysorbate 80
  • Sodium borate

Who cannot have the HPV 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.

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.

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


What is HPV?

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the name of a very common group of viruses. They do not cause any problems in most people, but some types can cause genital warts or cancer.

There are many types of HPV, some of which are called “high risk” because they’re linked to the development of cancers, such as cervical cancer, anal cancer, genital cancers, and cancers of the head and neck.

Other types can cause conditions like warts or verrucas.

High risk types of HPV can be found in more than 99% of cervical cancers.

There is also a significant association between HPV and some of the anal and genital cancers, and cancers of the head and neck.

HPV infections do not usually cause any symptoms, and most people will not know they’re infected.

How serious is HPV?

HPV can cause cervical and other cancers, including cancer of the vulva, vagina, penis, or anus. It can also cause cancer in the back of the throat (called oropharyngeal cancer). This can include the base of the tongue and tonsils. Cancer often takes years, even decades, to develop after a person gets HPV.

About 10% of women with HPV infection on their cervix will develop long-lasting HPV infections that put them at risk for cervical cancer. Similarly, when high-risk HPV lingers and infects the cells of the vulva, vagina, penis, or anus, it can cause cell changes called precancers.

How human papillomavirus (HPV) is spread?

Many types of HPV affect the mouth, throat or genital area. They’re easy to catch.

You do not need to have penetrative sex.

You can get HPV from:

  • any skin-to-skin contact of the genital area
  • vaginal, anal or oral sex
  • sharing sex toys

HPV has no symptoms, so you may not know if you have it.

It’s very common. Most people will get some type of HPV in their life.

Important: You do not have to have sexual contact with a lot of people to get HPV. You can get HPV the first time you have sex.

What are the symptoms of human papillomavirus (HPV)?

HPV does not usually cause any symptoms.

Most people who have it do not realise and do not have any problems.

But sometimes the virus can cause painless growths or lumps around your vagina, penis or anus (genital warts).

Conditions linked to human papillomavirus (HPV)

Most of the time HPV does not cause any problems.

In some people, some types of HPV can cause:

  • genital warts
  • abnormal changes in the cells that can sometimes turn into cancer

HPV types linked to cancer are called high-risk types.

Cancers linked to high-risk HPV include:

  • cervical cancer
  • anal cancer
  • penile cancer
  • vulval cancer
  • vaginal cancer
  • some types of head and neck cancer

You can have HPV for many years without it causing problems.

You can have it even if you have not been sexually active or had a new partner for many years.

Testing for human papillomavirus (HPV)

HPV testing is part of cervical screening. There’s no blood test for HPV.

During cervical screening, a small sample of cells is taken from the cervix and tested for HPV.

Screening is offered to all women and people with a cervix aged 25 to 64. It helps protect them against cervical cancer.

Some sexual health clinics may offer anal screening to men with a higher risk of developing anal cancer, such as men who have sex with men.

How to protect yourself against human papillomavirus (HPV)

You cannot fully protect yourself against HPV, but there are things that can help.

Condoms can help protect you against HPV, but they do not cover all the skin around your genitals, so you’re not fully protected.

The HPV vaccine protects against the types of HPV that cause most cases of genital warts and cervical cancer, as well as some other cancers. It does not protect against all types of HPV.

Treating human papillomavirus (HPV) infections

There’s no treatment for HPV. Most HPV infections do not cause any problems and are cleared by your body within 2 years.

Treatment is needed if HPV causes problems like genital warts or changes to cells in the cervix.

Can I safely have sex without the HPV vaccine?

Condoms can help prevent you catching HPV from infected individuals during sex but they aren’t as reliable as getting vaccinated.

The British Journal of Cancer states that “Most HPV infections of the cervix are asymptomatic and more than 90% of detected infections are cleared within 2 years.”

We recommend you always practice safe sex even after the vaccine as it doesn’t protect against other sexual transmitted infections.

What about Cervical Screening (Smear Tests)?

Don’t forget you will still need to go for your Cervical Screening (smear test) even after vaccination. If you have any symptoms you are worried about, such as abnormal bleeding, we recommend you see a health professional as soon as possible.

Should men get the HPV vaccine?

HPV is associated with certain types of penile and throat cancer, as well as genital warts. The vaccine will lower your risk of developing these types of cancer while also protecting you from genital warts, a very common sexually transmitted disease. As with women, it is best to get vaccinated early on in life before you have been infected with any type of HPV. The NHS offers free vaccinations to all 12 and 13-year-olds in school Year 8. Those who missed their HPV vaccination in school Year 8 can continue to have the vaccine on the NHS up to their 25th birthday

What are the side effects of the HPV vaccination?

The HPV vaccination can cause temporary side effects in some patients. Possible side effects include headache, fever, nausea and dizziness. You may also notice some redness, swelling, itching, bruising or redness at the site of injection.

As with other vaccines, we may ask you to remain at the clinic for observation for 15 minutes after the injection has been administered.