The HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine is offered to all aged 12 to 13 years old to help protect them against HPV-related cancers.
The 1st dose of the HPV vaccine is routinely offered to girls and boys aged 12 and 13 in school Year 8. The 2nd dose is offered 6 to 24 months after the 1st dose.
If you miss either of your HPV vaccine doses, speak to your school immunisation team or GP surgery and make an appointment to have the missed dose as soon as possible.
It's important to have both doses of the vaccine to be fully protected.
Read more about HPV vaccination safety and the possible side effects.
HPV vaccination does not protect against other infections spread during sex, such as chlamydia, and it will not stop girls getting pregnant, so it's still very important to practise safe sex.
HPV is the name given to a very common group of viruses.
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.
HPV infections can be spread by any skin-to-skin contact and are usually found on the fingers, hands, mouth and genitals.
This means the virus can be spread during any kind of sexual activity, including touching.
The HPV vaccine works best if girls and boys get it before they come into contact with HPV (in other words, before they become sexually active).
So getting the vaccine when recommended will help protect them during their teenage years and beyond.
Most unvaccinated people will be infected with some type of HPV at some time in their life.
The virus does not usually do any harm because the person's immune system clears the infection.
But sometimes the infection stays in the body for many years, and then it may start to cause damage.
The HPV vaccine is given as 2 injections into the upper arm spaced at least 6 months apart.
It's important to have both doses of the vaccine to be properly protected.
If you missed the HPV vaccine offered in school Year 8, you can get it for free up until your 25th birthday.
Men who have sex with men (MSM), and trans men and trans women who are eligible for the vaccine, will also need 2 doses of the vaccine given 6 months apart.
MSM who are HIV positive or have a weakened immune system (immunosuppressed) need to have 3 doses of the HPV vaccine.
If you need 3 doses of the vaccine:
- the 2nd dose should be given at least 1 month after the 1st dose
- the 3rd dose should be given at least 3 months after the 2nd dose
It's important to have all vaccine doses to be properly protected.
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.