The HPV Vaccine

The HPV vaccine

HPV or “human paplliomavirus” are a collection of viruses that can affect almost all sexual active people in Ireland. The HPV vaccine will be available now to both boys and girls in their first year of secondary school. It protects from more than 99% of cancer-causing HPV virus types.

The vaccine contains virus-like particles of HPV that are used to protect your body from high risk HPV types which can be cancer causing. It is also designed to protect against genital warts, which are caused by low-risk types of HPV.

The most common cancer caused by the HPV virus is cervical cancer. However, the HPV virus affects boys too through male HPV related cancers of the anus, throat, and penis.

Following a recommendation from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC), the Minister for Health and Children announced that the HPV vaccine would be introduced into the national immunisation programme in Ireland from September 2019. This means that all first-year students in Ireland will have access to the vaccine as a part of the national strategy to prevent cancers linked to HPV.

Gardasil 9 is licensed for use from the age of nine for the prevention of cancers linked to HPV. These cancers include cancer of the-

  • Anus
  • Back of the throat (oropharynx)
  • Cervix
  • Penis
  • Vulva
  • Vagina
  • As well as pre-cancerous lesions

This vaccine protects against the HPV types which are responsible for 90% of cervical cancer.

Gardasil 9 – The HPV Vaccine

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 260,000 people in Ireland.

The Patient Information Leaflet and the Summary of Product Characteristics are available here


Why is the HPV vaccine now being offered to boys?

Unlike cervical pre-cancers there is no screening test available for oropharyngeal, anal or penile cancers, so prevention is imperative. Vaccination not only helps protect boys against HPV, but also provides greater protection for women.

Vaccination of both boys and girls is shown to reduce the spread of HPV and is likely to reduce the overall burden of HPV related cancer sooner than would a girls only programme.

This means that the extension of the HPV vaccine programme to include boys will likely radically improve protection against HPV infection and associated HPV disease, in vulnerable groups such as gay couples.

To read the HIQA report on why the HPV vaccine is being rolled out to boys, click here.

Is the HPV vaccine safe?

The HPV vaccine- safe and effective

The HPV vaccine is known to be most effective when given at the age of 12 to 13 years and will provide protection throughout adulthood. Since 2006, more than 200 million doses of the HPV vaccines have been distributed globally and over 80 million young girls and boys have been protected from developing cancer.

The HPV vaccine is safe. The safety of the HPV vaccine has been studied for over 13 years. Over 1 million people have been studied during clinical trials since the vaccine was licensed in 2006.

No country has raised concerns about the safety of the HPV vaccine. There is no scientific evidence in Ireland that the HPV vaccine causes any long-term medical condition.

Vaccines are strictly monitored and reviewed regularly by international bodies including the:

For more than 12 years the safety of the HPV vaccine has been strictly monitored and frequently reviewed by many international bodies including:

  • the European Medicines Agency (EMA);
  • the Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety of the World Health Organization;
  • the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in the US.

The HPV vaccine in Ireland

In Ireland

  • All vaccines are monitored by the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) and the European Medicines Agency .
  • Each year around 300 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and 90 women die from the disease. Research shows that 90% of cervical cancer cases can be linked back to HPV.
  • The HPV vaccine is proven to prevent 7 out of 10 pre cancers and cancers developing.
  • The HSE HPV vaccination programme commenced in 2010 and since then more than 240,000 girls have been fully vaccinated against HPV.
  • There has been constant safety monitoring of the vaccine in Ireland and worldwide since the vaccine was introduced over ten years ago. This has shown there has been no increase in the number of girls developing any long term medical condition (including Chronic Fatigue Syndrome -CFS). There is no scientific evidence that the HPV vaccine causes CFS.

Click here to view a HPV fact sheet from the HSE


HPV vaccine side effects

While the vaccine has been proven to be safe and most recipients don’t experience any side effects, like any other kind of vaccine, some may experience  some short term issues after they receive the vaccine.

Short-term side effects

  • 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.
  • 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.

Helpful Resources: 

To read personal testimonials concerning vaccinations and why they are so important, visit the Why I Vaccinate page of the HSE here.

To learn more about the myths surrounding the HPV vaccine and how just how effective the vaccine is, click here.

More information on HPV vaccine is available at

You can download the information booklet for parents and guardians about the HPV vaccination here and you can read the Patient Information Leaflet (PIL) for the Gardasil vaccination here.

For useful statistics on HPV in Ireland, read HPV Aware findings

For parents, you can find the 5 things you need to know about HPV on the HPV Aware Parents factsheet

The Marie Keating Foundation are members of the HPV Vaccination Alliance; a group of organisations that have come together to sign a Contract Against Cancer, specifically HPV- related cancers. To find out more, click here.