HVP – What You Need To Know & How We Can Help

Many of our pharmacists are pleased to offer the HPV vaccine to both male and females aged 9 to 26 years. In this blog I will discuss the ins and outs of HPV and how the vaccine can help protect you or your child.

What is HPV?

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the name of a very common group of viruses which can affect both males and females. These viruses do not cause any problems in most people; however, some types can cause genital warts or cancer. There are more than 100 different types of HPV, some of which are called ‘high-risk’ or ‘low-risk’ types depending on their association with the development of cancer. These cancers include cervical, anal, genital and cancers of the head and neck. High-risk types of HPV can be found in more than 99% of cervical cancers. There’s a lesser association between HPV and some of the anal and genital cancers, and cancers of the head and neck.

Other types can cause conditions like warts or verrucas. HPV infections do not usually cause any symptoms, and most people will not know they’re infected.

How is HPV spread?

HPV is very common and can be caught through any kind of sexual contact with another person who already has it. Most people will get an HPV infection at some point in their lives and their bodies will get rid of it naturally without treatment.

Many types of HPV affect the mouth, throat or genital area. They’re easy to catch. You do not need to have penetrative sex. You can get HPV from:

  • any skin-to-skin contact of the genital area
  • vaginal, anal or oral sex
  • sharing sex toys

HPV has no symptoms, so you may not know if you have it.

How can I protect myself against HPV?

You cannot fully protect yourself against HPV, but there are things that can help.

Using contraception protection such as condoms can help protect you against HPV, but they do not cover all the skin around your genitals, so you’re not fully protected.

The HPV vaccine protects against the types of HPV that cause most cases of genital warts and cervical cancer, as well as some other cancers. It does not protect against all types of HPV.

How does the HPV vaccine work?

At Davidsons, we offer two different vaccines – Gardasil and Gardasil® 9. Both protect against the main strains of HPV: 6, 11, 16 and 18. HPV types 16 and 18 account for 80% of cervical cancers, and are also associated with cancer of the anus, penis, throat, mouth, vagina and vulva. HPV types 6 and 11 cause around 90% of genital warts. Gardasil 9 protects against 5 other strains, providing maximum coverage.

HPV vaccination does not protect against other infections spread during sex, such as chlamydia, and it will not stop women from getting pregnant, so it’s still very important to practise safe sex.

Who is eligible for the vaccine?

The vaccine should not be assumed as only suitable for women. Men should also consider getting the vaccine particularly those who have different sexual partners and those who have sex with men as these groups have a higher risk of catching HPV. At Davidsons we are offering the HPV vaccine to both males and females aged 9 to 26 years. Evidence of effectiveness beyond this age is unknown.

Depending on your age you may receive two or three doses of the vaccine. The HPV vaccine is offered to both boys and girls in S1 as part of the NHS immunisation programme (please ask our pharmacists for more information). Children will receive two doses and it’s important to have both doses of the vaccine to be fully protected. People who have the 1st dose of the HPV vaccine at 15 years of age or above will need to have 3 doses of the vaccine. This is because they do not respond as well to 2 doses as younger people do.

Why is the HPV vaccine given at such a young age?

HPV infections can be spread by any skin-to-skin contact and are usually found on the fingers, hands, mouth and genitals. This means the virus can be spread during any kind of sexual activity, including touching. The HPV vaccine works best if girls and boys get it before they come into contact with HPV (in other words, before they become sexually active). So getting the vaccine when recommended will help protect them during their teenage years and beyond.

Is the vaccine available for men who have sex with men (MSM)?

MSM up to and including 45 years of age have been eligible for free HPV vaccination on the NHS when they visit sexual health clinics and HIV clinics. Ask the doctor or nurse at the clinic for more details.

Is the vaccine available for transgender people?

Trans women (people who were assigned male at birth) are eligible in the same way as MSM if their risk of getting HPV is similar to the risk of MSM who are eligible for the HPV vaccine.

Trans men (people who were assigned female at birth) are eligible if they have sex with other men and are aged 45 or under. If trans men have previously completed a course of HPV vaccination as part of the girls’ HPV vaccine programme, no further doses are needed.

How long does the HPV vaccine protect for?

Studies have shown that the vaccine protects against HPV infection for at least 10 years, although experts expect protection to last for much longer. But because the HPV vaccine does not protect against all types of HPV that can cause cervical cancer, it’s important that all women who receive the HPV vaccine also have regular cervical screening once they reach the age of 25.

For more information on HPV or to book an appointment in one of our participating branches, please follow the link below and complete the questionnaire.

https://www.davidsonschemists.co.uk/hpv_vaccination/

The HPV vaccine is available from the following Davidsons Chemists:

  • McPhersons, Broughty Ferry
  • Blairgowrie
  • Killin
  • Brechin
  • Bridge of Earn
  • Aboyne
  • Aberfeldy
  • Auchterarder
  • Banchory
  • Elie
  • Aberdeen
  • Drymen
  • Portsoy
  • Comrie
  • Strathblane
  • Milnathort

Published by Callum Watson – Strathblane Pharmacist Manager & Private Services Lead