Easy-to-read medicine information about HPV vaccine – what is it, when is it given and possible side effects.
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What is HPV vaccine?
HPV vaccine 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 possibly 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.
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 two doses, 6–12 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 of the arm or leg.
Children are offered the vaccine at most schools, usually in Year 7 and 8. The vaccine is also available free from general practices and some other health centres.
Men and women aged 27 years or older may still benefit from receiving a course of three HPV vaccine doses. If they have not started the course by age 27, they will need to purchase the vaccine doses through their family doctor or Family Planning Clinic. The HPV vaccine is recommended in people aged 27 years and older:
- who have had little previous exposure to HPV and are now likely to be exposed
- who are men who have sex with men
- with HIV.
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.
- If you have a fever or illness at the time of vaccination, let your doctor or nurse know before they give the vaccination.
Possible side effects
Like all medicines, the HPV vaccine can cause side effects, although not everyone gets them.
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Where can I get vaccinated?
The best place to go for vaccinations is your family medical clinic. They have your medical records and can check to see if you’ve already had a particular vaccination. Either your doctor or a nurse can give the vaccination.
If you don’t have a family doctor, you can go to one of the after-hour medical clinics. Ring them first to make sure they can help you with the vaccination you need.
You can find a clinic near you on the Healthpoint website. Put in your address and region, and under Select a service, click on GPs/Accident & Urgent Medical Care.
Vaccines on the National Immunisation Schedule are free. Other vaccines are funded only for people at particular risk of disease. You can choose to pay for vaccines that you are not eligible to receive for free.
The following links have more information on HPV vaccine.