VaccinationsHPV vaccine safety
How do we know the HPV vaccines are safe?
A vaccine can only be used in people if scientific tests, called clinical trials, show it is safe and effective, and that the benefits outweigh any risks.
The data from these trials is then looked over by a European Medicines Agency (EMA) group called the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use. If the committee is happy the trials show a vaccine is safe, it will grant a licence for use in the UK.
Both Gardasil and Cervarix have EMA licences for use in the UK.
The safety record of the HPV vaccine
The HPV vaccine has been used worldwide for many years in counties such as Australia, Canada, the UK, the US and most of western Europe. More than 80 million people have been vaccinated worldwide.
A number of authorities around the world, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the EMA, have monitored the use of the HPV vaccine very closely for many years. They use lots of different kinds of safety data and continue to say the HPV vaccine is very safe.
As with all medicine and vaccines, there are some mild side effects associated with the HPV vaccination. Read more about the possible side effects of the HPV vaccine.
Can the HPV vaccine cause long-term (chronic) conditions?
Many different clinical trials and scientific studies have looked to see if there are any links between the HPV vaccination and other conditions, including:
- chronic fatigue syndrome (sometimes called ME)
- complex regional pain syndrome
- postural tachycardia syndrome
- premature ovarian failure
- Guillain-Barré syndrome
They have found no increase in cases of these conditions among people who have been vaccinated against HPV compared to people who have not.
The WHO Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety regularly reviews the emerging international evidence on the safety of HPV vaccination. In March 2017, it issued a statement concluding there is no evidence of any link between the HPV vaccination and these conditions.
Monitoring safety of HPV vaccines
The Yellow Card Scheme allows doctors, other healthcare professionals and members of the public to report suspected side effects from any medicine taken, including vaccines. It's run by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
The scheme regularly reviews the reports and, if there is a potential problem, will carry out an investigation and take appropriate action if necessary.
There is also a legal requirement for pharmaceutical companies to report serious and suspected adverse events to the MHRA.
Find out how to report a vaccine side effect.
What difference has the HPV vaccine made so far?
The UK HPV vaccination programme began in 2008, and there is evidence from Australia, Denmark, England and Scotland that the vaccine is making a difference. There has been a large drop in the rates of infection with the two main cancer-causing HPV types in women and men.
The UK programme is expected to eventually prevent hundreds of deaths from cervical cancer every year. It can take many years for cervical cancer to develop after HPV infection, so it will take some time to find out the overall benefits of the vaccination programme.
Page last reviewed: 13/03/2016
Next review due: 13/03/2019