What is Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)?
Human Papilloma Virus is a very common infection and 75-80% women (and men) get it at some stage in life. It usually causes no symptoms and many women will not even know that they have had the infection. Most (95%) women will shake it off through their immunity, but in some women it may linger on and cause abnormal smears. Click here for more information on HPV.
Is it possible to be vaccinated against HPV? What types of vaccines are available?
Yes. There are two vaccines available to protect against HPV; Gardasil-4 and Gardasil-9. These protect against four (Gardasil 4) and nine (Gardasil 9) strains of HPV offering protection against 70% and 90% of cervical cancers respectively and also 90% of genital warts which are caused by low risk HPV strains. Click here to view our HPV vaccination package.
What protection does the vaccine offer?
It is important to remember that the vaccine does not offer 100% protection against cervical cancer. This protection is only 90% with Gardasil-9 and 70% with Gardasil-4 and cervical screening in the form of pap-smear or HPV-test should be continued.
How is the vaccine given?
Both vaccines are given as a course of three intramuscular injections at 0, 2 and 6 months.
Ideally, your vaccination schedule should be:
- First dose: at a date you choose.
- Second dose: 2 months after the first dose.
- Third dose: 6 months after the first dose.
Are there any side-effects?
Both these HPV vaccines are completely synthetic and do not contain any active virus components. The synthetic virus-like-particle mimics the antigen structure of the virus and your immunity will generate antibodies which will act against the actual HPV infection thus preventing the infection.
As this is a synthetic vaccine, there are very few side effects and are mostly related to the injection-site such as swelling, redness, infection etc. Sometimes, headache, dizziness, fainting or allergic reaction to the vaccine have been reported.
Is it possible to get HPV or any disease caused by HPV from vaccination?
No. It is not possible to get HPV or any disease caused by HPV from vaccination. That’s because there is no live virus in the vaccine.
Will I need a booster dose?
Currently, the studies into these vaccines are still ongoing and the follow-up is around ten years. However, the immunity obtained on vaccination and antibody levels seem to remain high throughout. We therefore feel that a booster dose will not be required.
I have had treatment for abnormal smears / I have been sexually active for some time. Is it too late for me to be vaccinated against HPV?
No, it still may make sense. Ideally, HPV vaccination should be carried out before sexual debut. However, less than 1% of women are exposed to all nine types that the vaccine protects against. 99% of women are therefore likely to benefit from this vaccination even if you are sexually active or have had treatment for abnormal smears.
A recent publication suggests that vaccination after treatment reduces the risk of recurrence of smear abnormality by about 50%.
What about men?
Both men and women can get HPV and pass it on without even realizing it. HPV will affect an estimated 75% to 80% of males and females in their lifetime. The vaccine can be given to men as well and will protect them against HPV infection and HPV-related diseases such as genital warts, penile, anal and throat cancers. It will also help in creating a greater ‘herd’ immunity thus reducing overall rates of HPV infection in all population.
Is this available on the NHS?
Yes, but only at the age of 12-13. The NHS vaccination programme is carried out through the schools. The vaccine is not available on the NHS to older women. Gardasil-9 is not yet available on the NHS.
How much does it cost privately?
The whole (Gardasil) vaccination programme including a consultation and three Gardasil-9 injections costs £790 with London Gynaecology.
Will I still need a smear test after vaccination?
Yes, you will still need some screening either in the form of a PAP-smear or HPV-DNA test.