A Parent's Guide to the HPV Vaccine for Year 8 Students

Disclosure: This is an advertisement feature with Public Health England. This post has been approved by Public Health England but I am not a medical professional - visit www.nhs.uk/hpv or seek your GP's advice for more information.

IMAGE ONE: Feature image - A Parent's Guide to the HPV Vaccine for Year 8 Students

Harry is aged 13 and in Year 8 of Secondary school. He has settled in really well and generally found Year 8 to be a lot easier than Year 7. I think the first year of Secondary School is a big transition and now he is in his second year, he has definitely found his stride and has a lovely group of friends.

This year, Harry was one of the first male students to be given the HPV vaccination. This vaccination has been offered to girls for over 10 years and since September 2019, the vaccine is now being offered to Year 8 boys.

IMAGE 2 - Harry at Northumberlandia - A Parent's Guide to the HPV Vaccine for Year 8 Students

The extension of the HPV vaccination to include boys alongside girls will help to prevent more cases of HPV-related cancers such as head and neck cancers.

I know a lot of my readers will have children moving up to Year 8 in the next few years and I wanted to share our honest experience of the HPV vaccine and with the help of Public Health England, share some of the facts around the vaccine.

HPV Quick Facts 

IMAGE 3 - The Universal HPV Vaccine Text - A Parent's Guide to the HPV Vaccine for Year 8 Students

  • The HPV vaccine helps protect you from the human papillomavirus (HPV) which can increase the risk of women and men developing cancers in later life including cervical cancer, some mouth & throat cancers, and some cancers of the anus and genital areas.
  • Currently, the universal HPV vaccine programme uses a vaccine known as Gardasil ,  it protects against 4 types of HPV (types 6, 11, 16 and 18).
  • Types 6 & 11 cause over 90% of genital warts but do not cause cancer.
  • High-risk HPV types are linked to cancer. Types 16 & 18 are responsible for around 80% of cervical cancers in the UK alone, and can also cause some of the other cancers mentioned.
  • Genital HPV infections are common and easily spread through sexual contact. Even condoms do not completely prevent these infections, so vaccination is crucial. But remember, the HPV vaccination does not protect against other sexually transmitted infections.
  • Most unvaccinated people will be infected with some type of HPV at some point in their life. In fact, most infections don't cause symptoms and get better on their own.
  • However, some infections caused by high-risk types of HPV don't clear up and can cause abnormal cell changes which, if left untreated, could lead to cancer.
  • The HPV vaccine works best if administered before students are sexually active which is why it is given in Year 8. People who get the vaccine after becoming active may not get the full benefit of the vaccine if they have already been exposed to HPV.
How has the HPV vaccine made a difference so far? 

  • Over 80 million people have received the HPV vaccine around the world, with over 10 million doses given to young women in  England so far. In 2018, HPV16/18 infections were detected in less than 2% 0f 16-18-year-old women, which is down from over 15% in 2008 before the vaccine was introduced.
  •  Although it will take some years to see the full impact of the HPV programme, a recent study in Scotland has already shown a 71% reduction in pre-cancerous cervical disease in young women.
  • PHE data have also shown that between 2014 and 2018, diagnoses of genital warts have declined by over 90% in 15-17-year-old girls and over 80% in 15-17-year-old boys. This suggests that boys have already been benefitting indirectly from herd protection - if less girls have the HPV virus, they are less likely to pass it on to boys. 

The HPV vaccine - Harry's experience
IMAGE 4 - Harry in the arcades - A Parent's Guide to the HPV Vaccine for Year 8 Students

Harry was provided with his first dose of the HPV vaccine in the first term of Year 8. It may differ slightly from school-to-school but at our school in Northumberland, parents were initially sent an email to introduce them to the HPV vaccination programme with links to the NHS site to read more.

I believe Harry was provided with information in school too and students were handed a consent form to bring home to their parents to complete and return. The consent form was quick and easy to complete (basic details such as your GP name and address). We didn't return the form within a couple of days and were sent a friendly reminder from school via email and Harry was also reminded by his form tutor.

A Parent's Guide to the HPV Vaccine for Year 8 Students  - vaccination consent form

I chatted with Harry about the vaccination and whether he thought it was a good idea/if he had any concerns. For me, it is important that Harry was involved and I feel like he is old enough now to have these conversations. Harry is brilliant at research and fact-checking  - if anything, he probably knew more about the HPV virus than I did.  He agreed that he wanted to go ahead.

Harry's school is pretty large and students were taken for their vaccine in groups across a few days. Both boys and girls were taken together and the vaccine was provided in school. Harry wasn't apprehensive at all and took it all in his stride. He did mention some students were anxious though and if your child is apprehensive, it is worth chatting with your school immunisation team.

IMAGE 5 - Vaccination card - A Parent's Guide to the HPV Vaccine for Year 8 Students

The vaccine is given in the arm in year 8. Two injections are required - the second dose is usually given 6-12 months after the initial dose Your school will inform you when this is due and make the arrangements. It is important to have both doses to be protected.

Harry mentioned that his arm was slightly painful for the rest of the day after his vaccination but he was still able to get on with his day-to-day life and it didn't bother him too much. You can read more about HPV vaccine side effects here. 

For me, anything I can do to help protect my children as they grow into young adults is important. I made an informed choice to consent to this vaccination and I will be doing the same with Heidi and Jack when the time comes too. I feel like it is important that you are armed with the facts when making decisions around your children and I hope the links in this article, along with my experience have provided you with the information you need. 

HPV vaccine - Frequently asked questions

IMAGE 6 - HPV leaflets  - A Parent's Guide to the HPV Vaccine for Year 8 Students

If your child has missed their vaccinations at school, they can catch up as they remain eligible until their 25th birthday. Contact your GP practice to make arrangements. If your child is over the age of 15, they may require three doses. If you fall into this category, your GP will provide more information. 

All women aged between 25 and 64 in England are offered free cervical screening tests and these are still super important. The HPV vaccine protects against most but not all HPV types that cause cervical cancer, so regular screening is still needed and can pick up other abnormalities. 

I hope you have found this guide useful. Let me know if your child has received their HPV vaccination yet or if it is something you will be encountering in the next few years.  

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IMAGE 7 - Pinterest graphic - A Parent's Guide to the HPV Vaccine for Year 8 Students


1 comment

  1. My teen had the HPV Vaccine in year 8 and my youngest will be having it later this month. I think it is so important to vaccinate children. My youngest is dreading it but I know she'll be fine x


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