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The side effects of the HPV vaccine

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You may have heard about HPV in the news or seen a sign about vaccinations at your local pharmacy. The HPV vaccine can help protect you from the infection, although like with any vaccine or medication there are potential side effects that you should know about and consider before you or your loved one has the vaccine. We’re always here to help you find what is best for you and your family.

What is HPV?

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a common virus that affects men and women. The infection can cause genital warts and abnormal cells that are linked to cervical and other cancers. You can find out more about HPV and how it is caused in our vaccination guide.

What are the symptoms of HPV?

If you have HPV you may not know that you do. This is because the infection shows no symptoms. If you are sexually active and are experiencing symptoms such as pain when urinating or unusual discharge you may have an STI. You can talk to a pharmacist, GP or a healthcare professional at your local sex clinic, they’ll be able to offer advice and testing options.

What is the HPV vaccine?

You may be wondering what the HPV vaccine is, what it prevents and why you should have one. The HPV vaccine was introduced over 10 years ago to girls in schools as a national vaccination programme, it has since been rolled out to boys, and the vaccine is now available privately in local pharmacies across the country.

Like the NHS we use the Gardasil vaccine, however the NHS administers Gardasil 4 which protects against 4 type of HPV. We offer Gardasil 9 which helps protect against 9 types of HPV. Both vaccines protect against types of cervical cancer, genital cancers and some types of cancer that affect the head and neck. The HPV vaccine also works to protects you from catching genital warts, however it does not stop you from getting other STIs, so practising safe sex is best.

Are there any side effects for the HPV vaccine?

As with any vaccination there can be side effects and the HPV injection is no exception. Side effects of the HPV vaccine are mostly temporary and occur around the part of your arm that you had the injection in. Of those who have the Gardasil 9 jab, more than 1 in 10 people will experience the following side effects around the injection site:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Pain

These tend to be temporary and shouldn’t last more than a couple of days. You may also experience headaches, but again these shouldn’t last very long. If you are worried about side effects, you can always ask one of our pharmacists.

There are also some more common HPV vaccine side effects, these include:

  • Bruising or itching where you have been vaccinated
  • A fever or feeling hot and shivery
  • Feeling sick
  • Feeling pain in your fingers, hands, arms, toes, feet or legs
  • Dizziness or feeling faint

If you think you will feel faint, ask to lie down for your injection and stay lying down for a short while afterwards.

Rare side effects of the HPV jab include an itchy red rash and very rarely a person may experience difficulty breathing. It is very rare that an allergic reaction occurs but if this happens your healthcare professional will know what to do. If you are worried you can always speak to a pharmacist, they’ll be able to offer advice and answer any questions you may have.

Does the HPV vaccine have any long-term side effects?

There is no evidence to suggest that the HPV vaccine has any long-term side effects, it has been proven safe in testing and clinical trials. The NHS states that the benefits outweigh the risks of having the vaccine. In these studies, it was found that the vaccine did not increase the cases of chronic conditions such as ME (chronic fatigue syndrome) in those who had been vaccinated versus those who had not.

How does the HPV vaccine work?

Similar to other vaccinations, the HPV vaccine teaches your immune system how to create antibodies that protect you from HPV. These antibodies will work to fight off HPV if they encounter it in the future.

It is estimated that over 80 million people across the world have had the vaccine so far, and since the UK started vaccinating against HPV infections of HPV types 16/18 in 16-21 year old women have reduced by 86% in England. HPV 16 and 18 are high risk types of the virus, these can cause cervical, vaginal and penile cancers.

How long does HPV vaccine last?

The HPV vaccine does not offer protecting against all types of HPV, instead it protects against the strains of HPV which cause genital warts, cervical cancer and other cancers like mouth and throat. That being said, studies have shown that the HPV vaccine continues to protect for at least 10 years, with many experts expecting those who have been vaccinated to be protected for longer.

Are there any side effects of the HPV vaccine for females?

The side effects of the HPV vaccination are the same for men and women. The vaccine is safe, however if you do experience side effects, these tend to be mild, ranging from pain where you were injected to headaches. If you’re worried about the vaccination you can talk to a pharmacist at any time, or during your consultation.

Are there any side effects of the HPV vaccine for males?

After having your HPV jab you may experience certain side effects. These do not differ between men and women. The side effects of the UK HPV vaccine are usually temporary, and many people do not experience any side effects.

Where can I get the HPV vaccine?

We offer the HPV vaccine to men and women from 12 years of age, but not to pregnant women. When you’re deciding where to get the vaccine you’ll want to think about your consultation, whether you’d like to do this in-store at the time of your injection or online before you go into store. Find out more about the options available to you on our HPV information page.

References

www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/hpv-human-papillomavirus-vaccine/
www.nhs.uk/conditions/human-papilloma-virus-hpv/
publichealthmatters.blog.gov.uk/2018/06/18/ten-years-on-since-the-start-of-the-hpv-vaccine-programme-what-impact-is-it-having/
www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/hpv-vaccine-cervarix-gardasil-side-effects
www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/vaccines/hpv-vaccine.html
assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/812484/PHE_HPV_vaccination_leaflet.pdf
www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/infectious-agents/hpv-vaccine-fact-sheet