HPV vaccine side effects
Reviewed by our clinical team
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.
The HPV vaccine can help protect you from the infection, although like with any vaccine or medication there are potential side effects. So, in this article we’re going to look at those potential vaccine side effects and things to look out for.
What is the HPV vaccine?
The HPV vaccine is used to protect against ‘high-risk’ strains of HPV. There are around 100 strains of HPV, but only a handful of these are though to be ‘high-risk’ – these are the ones most likely to cause genital warts and certain cancers.
The HPV vaccine we offer is Gardasil 9, which protects against nine strains of HPV. Two of the strains it protects against (16 and 18) cause up to 70% of cervical cancer. It also protects against strains 6 and 11 which can cause genital warts.
The vaccine is routinely offered to children in Year 8, as part of the NHS’ National Immunisation Programme. Anyone who was offered the vaccine in Year 8, but missed it, can get a catch-up course on the NHS. Men who have sex with men, and some transgender people can also get the vaccine on the NHS, up until the age of 45.
Until recently, if you were 11-13 years old, you would get two doses of the vaccine, and those older would be offered three doses. But new evidence has found that two doses, given at the correct interval, can provide the same amount of protection as three doses.
Common HPV vaccine side effects
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:
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.
Other common side effects 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 vaccine
It’s thought that around 1 in 1000 people getting the HPV jab will get hives (an itchy, red rash). And around 1 in 10000 people may experience difficulty breathing. These symptoms are allergic reactions.
It’s very rare that an allergic reaction occurs but if this happens your healthcare professional will know what to do.
Does the HPV vaccine have any long-term side effects?
The HPV vaccine has been widely used the UK, the US, Australia and Western Europe for many years and it has been concluded that the benefits of reducing certain cancers and genital warts outweigh any risks.
To date there are no known long-term side-effects or links to chronic diseases such as ME (chronic fatigue), complex regional pain syndrome, Guillan-Barre syndrome, premature ovarian failure or POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome).
How to manage side effects from the HPV vaccine
Most of the common HPV vaccine side effects will pass with time, and you might not need to do anything about them.
If you have aches and pains, a headache or temperature, you could take some paracetamol to see if that helps.
If you do have an allergic reaction, which is very rare, the healthcare professionals around you will know what to do. By and large people recover fully within a couple of hours.
How long does HPV vaccine last?
Once you’ve had your course of HPV vaccines, you will be protected, and you won’t need any booster jabs. Studies have shown that the vaccine lasts for at least 10 years, but experts think that the protection can actually last much longer.
Where can I get the HPV vaccine?
As mentioned above, children in Year 8 are offered the HPV vaccine in school, free on the NHS. Anyone who was offered the vaccine in school, and missed them, can get a catch-up course for free before they turn 25.
Some transgender people and men who have sex with men can also get the vaccine for free until they’re 45.
You can check your eligibility for a free NHS vaccine here.
If you don’t fall into these categories, you can get the HPV vaccine through our online service. If approved by our clinicians, you’ll be able to book the vaccine at your local LloydsPharmacy.
If you had the Cervarix HPV vaccine
If you had your HPV vaccine in the UK between 2008 and 2012 you would have received Cervarix. This protects you against cervical cancer, but it doesn't protect you from genital warts. You may want to consider getting Gardasil 9 to add protection against genital warts. You will probably only need one injection.