What are the immediate side effects of the HPV vaccine?

The HPV vaccine may cause some minor and temporary side effects in some patients immediately after the injection.

Common immediate side effects of the HPV vaccination include:

  • Redness, swelling, or bruising at the site of the injection
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Mild pain in the arms, hands, fingers, legs, feet, or toes
  • Mild muscle and joint pain

Rare side effects of the HPV vaccination include:

  • Itchy red rash
  • Breathing difficulties

These side effects apply to all vaccines – be aware that most of these symptoms are typical of any kind of vaccination, and are not as a result of the HPV vaccination specifically. The HPV vaccine has no side effects that are uniquely associated with it.

Allergic reactions – a patient may have an allergic reaction to the HPV vaccination. These cases are very rare, being estimated at 3 per 1,000,000 people. Before receiving a vaccination, you will go through a medical consultation with the healthcare professional administering the vaccination. This consultation should include questions about any allergies you may have, which will reduce the risk of the vaccine being administered inappropriately.

The HPV vaccine (Gardasil 9) is not appropriate for those who have had an allergic reaction to the following:

  • A previous dose of Gardasil 9 or Gardasil 4
  • Yeast (severe allergic reaction)
  • Amorphous aluminum hydroxyphosphate sulfate
  • Polysorbate 80

Signs of an allergic reaction include:

  • Feeling faint, dizzy, or lightheaded
  • Constricted airways and breathing difficulties
  • Rising heart rate
  • Confusion and anxiety
  • Loss of consciousness

What are the long term side effects of the HPV vaccine?

The evidence shows no long-term side effects – there is no evidence to suggest that the HPV vaccination has any long term side effects, or is responsible for any long term health complications. This includes illnesses that are sometimes associated with the HPV vaccine, such as chronic fatigue syndrome. These claims have not been clinically proven to be accurate.

Can the HPV vaccine cause infertility? – there is no evidence to suggest that the HPV vaccine can cause infertility in men or women. In addition, the HPV vaccine has been proven to not increase the risk of serious adverse events during pregnancy, such as miscarriage or pregnancy termination.

Can the HPV vaccine cause cancer? – the HPV vaccination has not been linked to increasing the chances of developing cancer. In fact, the HPV vaccination protects against high-risk types of HPV that are known to cause cancer. Please read this for more information on the links between HPV and cervical cancer. 

Can the HPV vaccine cause autism? – the link between vaccines and autism was first proposed in a 1998 study by Dr Andrew Wakefield, whose work has since been discredited and proven to be false. There is no substantial evidence that any vaccines, including the HPV vaccine, can cause autism.

How do I know if I’m having side effects?

It’s hard to tell, you could be anxious about the jab itself – it can difficult to tell whether or not you’re having side effects, as the act of getting vaccinated may trigger feelings of unease or anxiety. These feelings can be easily mistaken for side effects or an anaphylactic (allergic) reaction to the vaccine itself, such as a feeling of impending doom or shortness of breath.

A nurse/doctor will be there to look out for side effects – side effects of the HPV vaccine typically occur within 15 minutes of being vaccinated. It is recommended that you stay with the nurse or doctor who administered the vaccination for 15 minutes after your injection, as a healthcare professional can confirm what is going on and can assist you if you are experiencing side effects.

How do you manage the side effects of the HPV vaccine?

Most side effects of the HPV vaccine occur immediately and are unlikely to cause any long-term health complications – if you believe that you are experiencing any side effects after receiving the HPV vaccine, inform the nurse or pharmacist who administered the vaccination as soon as possible. Healthcare professionals take side effects seriously, and will make sure that any side effects that you may experience are treated appropriately.

At Superdrug Health Clinics, our nurses may advise patients to wait in the store for up to 15 minutes after the vaccine has been administered to observe if there are any side effects that require medical attention. All Superdrug nurses will have an anaphylaxis kit in their clinic, and are trained to immediately deal with any allergic reactions.

The most common side effect is a sore arm – the area around the site of the injection may turn red and feel sore after your vaccination, which can last for up to 2 days. The best thing to do to treat a sore arm is to keep using your arm and try to ignore the pain, as increasing circulation to the area can help you recover more quickly. You can also take over the counter painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, or apply a cold compress to the area to reduce the soreness. If the pain lasts for more than 2 days, you should consult with your GP.

You may also develop a mild fever – some people develop a fever shortly after being vaccinated, as your body starts to produce antibodies to protect you from infection. The best thing to do to manage a fever is to keep yourself cool, make sure you drink plenty of fluids, and try to get some rest so your body has time to recover. You should get in contact with your GP if your fever lasts for more than 3 days.

Your safety is the most important thing – if you are concerned that you are experiencing side effects, no matter how minor they may seem, you should speak to a doctor or call NHS 111. If you believe you are experiencing severe side effects, such as breathing difficulties or an allergic reaction, call 999 immediately to receive emergency treatment.

Is the HPV vaccine safe?

How does the HPV vaccine work? – vaccines help to protect against diseases and infections by enabling the body to produce antibodies without being exposed to the disease or infection itself.

Live vaccines contain minuscule traces of the live virus – to familiarise the body with the infection it is designed to protect against, live vaccines expose the body to the live virus without causing a full blown infection. Live vaccines are not recommended for certain people, such as those with suppressed or compromised immune systems, as in rare cases these vaccines could cause an infection.

Inactivated vaccines contain traces of the dead virus – inactivated vaccines work in a similar way to live vaccinations, except the body doesn’t need to be exposed to the live infection. The vaccines do not trigger as strong a immune response as live vaccines, so inactivated vaccines typically require more than one dose to provide full immunity, or booster shots after immunity has worn off. The HPV vaccine is in this category, although no booster shots are required after completing a course of 3 doses.

The HPV vaccine that is offered by Superdrug Health Clinics is Gardasil 9 – Gardasil 9 protects against types 6, 11, 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58. Types 6 and 11 are known to develop into genital warts, and types 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58 are known to develop into cancer. The HPV vaccine is designed to protect against future infections of high-risk types of HPV, and is not effective in treating existing HPV infections or the complications caused by them.

Can the HPV vaccine cause HPV? – the HPV vaccine is not a live vaccine, which means it does not contain any of the live virus to stimulate your body’s autoimmune response to protect you against future infections. The HPV vaccine actually contains no traces of live HPV cells at all, so it is impossible for the HPV vaccine to cause you to become infected with HPV.

Can the HPV vaccine cause warts? – anogenital warts are most commonly caused by HPV infections of the genital region. As the HPV vaccine does not contain any traces of the virus itself and cannot cause you to become infected with HPV, the vaccine cannot cause you to develop warts. After being vaccinated, you are still susceptible to low-risk types of HPV that are not covered by the HPV vaccination, which could go on to develop into warts. However, this is not caused by the HPV vaccination itself.