At what age should I get the HPV vaccination?
How common is HPV?
There are over 100 types of HPV, not all of them are associated with cancer or genital warts. Some strains of HPV can infect the fingers and the hands, these can cause problems like warts and verrucas.
HPV is a common virus, as many as eight out of 10 of us will have the virus at some point in our lives. It’s passed between skin-to-skin contact. For most people, the virus doesn’t cause any symptoms, and lots of people will never know they had it.
What age should I get the HPV vaccine?
It’s recommended you get the HPV vaccine before you’re sexually active, as this means you’ll be less likely to have come into contact with HPV already. But if you get the vaccine after this point, it will still offer you some protection against new HPV infections.
The National Immunisation Programme (NIP) offers the vaccine to boys and girls in Year 8, women aged up to 25 who missed the vaccine in school, and men aged up to 45 who have sex with men.
Anyone over 18 can request a private HPV vaccine online from Online Doctor. LloydsPharmacy also offer private HPV vaccines to people aged 12-45.
Does this mean that if I have already had sex, there is no point in having the HPV vaccine?
There are over 100 different types of HPV virus, but only a few of these (12 types) cause genital warts or increase the risk of pre-cancerous changes of the genitals, anus, throat and mouth. So, even if you have had sex, you might not have come into contact with one of the harmful types of HPV.
The likelihood of this is decreased even more the fewer people you have had sex with in your lifetime, and if you have always used condoms.
So, having the HPV vaccine won’t protect you from whatever you’ve already got, but it will lower the risk of developing warts and pre-cancerous changes from other types of HPV that you haven’t yet been infected with.
Should I have the HPV vaccine if I have already had genital warts or been told that I have HPV after a smear test?
Even if you have been infected with one type of HPV, what about all the others? The vaccine won’t cure your warts or reverse any damage the virus has already caused. It also won’t help the body “clear” HPV if you are currently infected. It will, however, stop you getting other types of HPV that cause warts or pre-cancerous changes.
So, on balance, unless you are in a relationship where neither of you will have sex with other people ever again, it would be worth considering the HPV vaccine.
Should both men and women have the HPV vaccine?
In the UK, the HPV vaccine is now offered to boys and girls aged 12-13 as part of the National Immunisation Programme. It is also offered on the NHS to females who didn’t receive the vaccination at school and are under 25, as well as men under 45 who have sex with men.