A vaccine is a substance that improves immunity (protection) to a particular disease. The HPV vaccine protects against the HPV virus which can cause cancer and genital warts in both women and men.
How we know the HPV vaccine is safe
The HPV vaccine is safe. The safety of the HPV vaccine has been studied for over 14 years. Over 1 million people have been studied during clinical trials since the vaccine was licensed in 2006. We have over 90 pieces of research about HPV vaccine safety and effectiveness.
No country has raised concerns about the safety of the HPV vaccine. There is no scientific evidence in Ireland or in any other country that the HPV vaccine causes any long-term medical condition.
Vaccines are strictly monitored and reviewed regularly by international bodies including the:
- World Health Organization
- European Medicines Agency
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the USA
The HPV vaccine currently used in Ireland is called Gardasil 9. Over 100 million people have been fully vaccinated with Gardasil worldwide. This includes over 300,000 people in Ireland.
HPV vaccine side effects
Long-term side effects
All international bodies have continually reported that the vaccines used in Ireland have no long-term side effects.
Short-term side effects
Most people have no problems after the vaccine. The HPV vaccine has many of the same, mild side effects as other vaccines.
Some people have an area of soreness, swelling and redness in their arm where the injection was given. This is nothing to worry about as this usually passes after a day or two.
Some people may get a headache, feel sick in their tummy or have a slight temperature. If this happens, paracetamol or ibuprofen will help.
Occasionally, some people may feel unwell and faint after getting their injection. To prevent this, you should sit down and rest for 15 minutes after the vaccination.
Severe allergic reactions to vaccines are very rare. School vaccination teams are trained to treat any severe allergic reaction. If you are worried, talk to your GP or a member of the school team.
False claims about the HPV vaccine
We are aware of stories on social media claiming that the HPV vaccine causes an increase in cases of:
- postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) – an increase in heart rate that can make you feel faint and dizzy
- complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) – a form of chronic pain that usually affects an arm or a leg
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) researched these claims in 2015. They found no evidence that the HPV vaccine leads to an increase in these conditions.
The HPV vaccine in other countries
Over 100 countries now have a HPV vaccine programme, with more than 20 of these countries giving the vaccine to boys and girls.
These countries include:
- New Zealand
HPV vaccine effectiveness
The HPV vaccine now protects against the types of HPV that cause 9 out of 10 cervical cancers.
The HPV vaccine has greatly reduced cases of pre-cancers of the cervix in young women in many countries including Australia, Sweden, the US and the UK.
In countries where the HPV vaccine is used, the number of cases of genital warts has decreased dramatically in both young women and men.
Since the HPV vaccine was licensed in 2006, research has been done all over the world. It shows that the vaccine is safe and prevents cancer. Read more about HPV vaccine safety and effectiveness.
The World Health Organization (WHO) considers the HPV vaccine to be extremely safe. Read more about the safety of the HPV vaccine on the WHO's website.
Patient information leaflet
The vaccine used as part of the school immunisation programme is called Gardasil 9. It is produced by MSD Ireland (Human Health).
HPV screening for females
Even if you have had the HPV vaccine, you should have your cervical screening test (smear test) each time it's due. This is because the HPV vaccine doesn't give complete protection against cervical cancer.
HPV screening for males
There is no HPV screening currently available for males. The HPV vaccine is your best chance at protecting yourself against genital warts and HPV-related cancers.
Delays in the HSE School Vaccination Programme
The HPV vaccine, along with MenACWY and Tdap, is given to first year students in secondary school by our school vaccination teams. School closures and the redeployment of school vaccination teams to COVID-19 vaccine roll-out have interrupted school vaccination programmes.
In September 2020, many schools were unable to facilitate our teams due to the COVID-19 pandemic. School teams facilitated as many students as possible, both in schools where vaccinations were permitted, and in clinics outside of schools where possible.
School teams are restating clinics for school vaccinations. The school teams know what students need to get their vaccines and will contact parents and guardians to offer vaccines to students.
The HSE school vaccination programme may need to be done in a different venue or may be delayed because of Covid-19. The HSE will try to keep these changes to a minimum.
There is no requirement to restart the HPV vaccine schedule if the schedule is interrupted because of Covid-19. The National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) advice from the Immunisation Guidelines for Ireland says:
If an immunisation course is interrupted, it should be resumed as soon as possible. It is not necessary to repeat the course, regardless of the time interval from the previous incomplete course*. The course should be completed with the same brand of vaccine if possible.
* except cholera vaccine’