What the HPV vaccine protects you from

The vaccine protects against human papillomavirus a group of very common viruses that infect about 4 out of 5 people at some time in their lives.

HPV spreads through intimate skin-on-skin contact.

Most of the time you would not know that you have an HPV infection, and they often go away on their own. But sometimes they hang around and can lead to a range of cancers later in life.

Cervical cancer is the most common cancer caused by HPV. The virus can also cause head and neck cancer, and cancer in other parts of the body. About a third of all HPV cancers affect men. HPV can also cause genital warts.

For more information on cervical screening, including the new HPV screening test, visit the Time to Screen website.

Cervical screening — Time to Screen (external link)

The vaccine is very effective

The vaccine is very effective in preventing infection from the 9 types of HPV.

As HPV is common, the best way to protect your tamariki against HPV is to get them immunised.

When to get the HPV vaccine

The HPV vaccine is free for those aged 9 to 26 years old.

Lots of tamariki are offered the HPV vaccine at school, usually in Year 7 or 8. This is the best time for immunisation, as a pre-teen’s immune system is really effective at making antibodies in response to the vaccine and protection is long-lasting.

  • Tamariki aged 9 to 14 years old need 2 doses. The second dose is given at least 6 months after the first dose.
  • Rangatahi (young people) from age 15 years old need 3 doses. These are given over 6 months.

School-based immunisations

Public Health teams visit participating schools to immunise students usually in Year 7 or Year 8. Information and consent forms will be provided by your child’s school. 

If your tamariki has missed a school vaccination, contact your school to see if there is a catch-up vaccination day.

Immunisations outside of school

If your school is not offering HPV immunisation, or your child has missed out for any other reason, they can easily catch up with a visit to your doctor, nurse, or healthcare provider.

This is also an option if you would like to be with your tamariki when they get their vaccination.

Video: Year 8 immunisation: Protection against HPV

Which vaccine is used

The vaccine we use in Aotearoa New Zealand is Gardasil 9. It is given as an injection in your arm.

It is important to have all required doses of the HPV vaccine to be fully protected.

The vaccine cannot cause HPV infection or cancer.

Find answers to a series of common questions about HPV and Gardasil 9.

Gardasil 9 questions and answers Medsafe (external link)

Side effects and reactions

Like most medicines, vaccines can sometimes cause reactions. These are usually mild, and not everyone will get them.

Mild reactions are normal and show that your child’s immune system is responding to the vaccine.

If your tamariki is going to have any reactions, they normally happen in the first few days after getting vaccinated. The vaccine itself is gone from your child's body within a few hours or days.

The most common reaction to an immunisation includes:

  • a slight fever
  • pain or swelling where the needle went in.

Other common reactions

Other common reactions of the HPV vaccine include:

  • a headache
  • feeling sick
  • feeling tired
  • fainting, dizziness (eating before is a good idea to prevent this)
  • aches and pains.

Allergic reactions

Serious allergic reactions are extremely rare. Only about 1 in 1 million people will experience this.

Your vaccinator is well-trained and knows what to look for and can treat an allergic reaction quickly if it happens.

Serious allergic reactions normally happen within the first few minutes of vaccination. This is why your tamariki need to wait for up to 20 minutes after immunisation.

More information

Find more information about common side effects, what to look for and how to report side effects.

Vaccine side effects, reactions and safety (internal link)