he human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine has been offered to girls in Scotland from S1 since 2008.
From academic year 2019/20, the HPV vaccine will be offered to S1 boys as well.
This is because the evidence now shows that the HPV vaccine helps protect both boys and girls from HPV-related cancers.
Immunisation helps protect against the HPV virus, which can lead to cancers such as:
- head and neck cancers
- cervical cancer (in females)
- anogenital cancers (e.g. anal and penile (penis) cancer, cancer of the vagina and vulva).
NHS Health Scotland has produced a video explaining why the HPV vaccine is offered, and to whom.
What’s HPV and how does it spread?
HPV is very common and can be caught through intimate sexual contact with another person who already has it. More than 70% of unvaccinated people will get it at some point in their life. People are often infected without knowing it as there are usually no symptoms.
Most people who become infected with HPV clear the virus from their body, but others may develop a range of cancers in later life caused by the HPV virus.
Some people may also develop genital warts, which can sometimes be difficult to treat.
Having the vaccine is important because we can’t predict who will develop cancer or genital warts.
What are head and neck cancers?
There are more than 30 areas within the head and neck where cancer can develop, including the:
- mouth (including the lips)
- voice box (larynx)
- throat (pharynx)
- salivary glands
- nose and sinuses
- area at the back of the nose and mouth (nasopharynx).
Around 1,250 new cases of head and neck cancers are diagnosed in Scotland each year.
What’s cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer develops in the cervix, the entrance to the uterus (womb). It’s caused by a virus called the human papillomavirus (HPV).
Cervical cancer can be very serious. After breast cancer, it’s the most common women’s cancer in the world. It’s also the most common cancer in women under 35 years of age in Scotland.
In Scotland, around 100 women die from it.
The vaccine will prevent around 75% of cervical cancer cases, but screening is still needed to pick up any other cervical abnormalities.
All women aged from 25 to 64 are offered cervical screening, also known as ‘smear tests’, in Scotland. The combination of immunisation and regular screening offers the best possible protection against cervical cancer.
More on cervical screening (smear test)
Carron’s story: Cervical cancer and the HPV vaccine
Carron talks about her experience of surviving cervical cancer, and her daughters talk about the HPV vaccine.