Easy-to-read medicine information about HPV vaccine– what is it, how to get the HPV vaccine and possible side effects.
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What is HPV vaccine?
Human papillomavirus (HPV) immunisation helps protects against a virus that causes several cancers affecting both men and women, such as cancers of the cervix, vulva, vagina, and anus in women, or cancers of the anus and penis in men and throat cancers for both men and women. The vaccine is also effective at preventing genital warts.
- The vaccine works by causing the body’s immune system to produce its own protection (antibodies) against the HPV types most likely to cause cancer or genital warts.
- If an immunised person comes into contact with HPV, the antibodies in their blood will fight the virus and protect them against being infected.
- It usually takes several weeks after vaccination to develop protection against HPV.
Protection from the vaccine is long-lasting and is not expected to wear off over time.
How and when is HPV vaccine given?
In New Zealand, the HPV vaccine is available free for everyone age 9 to 26 years (males and females).
- It is recommended to be given to children aged 11 to 12 years.
- For children aged 9 to 14 years, the HPV vaccine is given as 2 doses, 6 months apart.
This age group develops a stronger immune response than those vaccinated when they are older.
- Children aged 15 years and older will need 3 doses of the vaccine, spaced over 6 months.
- Each dose is given as an injection into the muscle such as the muscle in the arm or leg.
Children are offered the vaccine at most schools, usually in Year 8. The vaccine is also available free from general practices and some other health centres.
Who should not get the HPV vaccine?
The use of the HPV vaccine is not recommended in:
- Anyone who has had a severe allergic reaction to yeast (one of the components of the vaccine), or to the vaccine previously.
- Pregnant women should delay being vaccinated, until after their pregnancy. The safety of the vaccine in pregnancy is unknown.
Possible side effects
Like all medicines, the HPV vaccine can cause unwanted side effects, although not everyone gets them.
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The following links provide further information on HPV vaccine. Be aware that websites from other countries may contain information that differs from New Zealand recommendations.