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What is HPV (Human Papilloma Virus)?
HPV is a common virus with over 100 types, most of which are harmless.
In most cases, your immune system will be able to get rid of it. However, sometimes a HPV infection can persist and it can lead to certain types of cancer, as well as genital warts.
Four out of five sexually active men and women will be infected with the virus at some point in their lives*, so it makes sense to vaccinate against it.
Almost all cases of cervical cancer are caused by the HPV virus. High risk types 16 and 18 are known to be responsible for 70% of all cases of cervical cancer and types 31, 33, 45, 52 and 58 are responsible for a further 20%.
Genital warts are the second most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in England.**
These are small, fleshy bumps that appear on or around the genital or anal area.
Although they may cause distress and may be unsightly, they aren’t usually considered harmful to health. Around 90% of genital warts are caused by HPV virus types 6 and 11.
In both men and women, infection with HPV can increase the risk of developing anal cancer and some cancers of the head and neck.
It can also increase the risk of developing cancer of the vagina and vulva in women and cancer of the penis in men. However, these cancers are less common and other factors are often involved.
Genital HPV infection is very common and is caught through intimate sexual contact with another person who already carries the virus.
It’s important to take precautions against sexually transmitted infections (eg by using condoms). Even if you use condoms there is still a risk you can catch HPV because the virus lives on the skin in and around the genital area and can be spread even if you don’t have full, penetrative sex.
Anybody who is sexually active is at risk of contracting a HPV infection. As there may be no symptoms, you can be infected with the virus for years without knowing it.
The risk of becoming infected does increase with the number of sexual partners, and is more likely if you’ve started having sex at a younger age. However, even people who have only had one sexual partner can be infected with HPV.
Certain factors are known to increase the risk of HPV infections developing into cervical cancer or HPV related anal cancers. These include:
• Having a weakened immune system, eg by taking certain medicines or by being HIV positive
In women, the risk of cervical cancer is also increased by:
• Having multiple children (seven or more)***
• Having a first child under the age of 17***
• Using oral contraceptive for five years or more***
• Having sex with other men
• Having sexual partners from different countries that don’t offer national vaccination programmes against HPV
How can I help protect myself against HPV?
Being vaccinated against HPV offers the best protection against the virus. Ideally, this should be before becoming sexually active, as you won’t yet have come into contact with the virus. If you are sexually active, you will still benefit from the service, as the HPV vaccination will help protect against HPV infections in the future. However, it will have no effect on active infections and established or previous disease. It will also not prevent the possible development of disease if you are already infected with HPV.
In 2008 the HPV vaccination was introduced to the NHS Childhood Vaccination Programme and routinely offered to secondary school girls aged 12-13 (11-12 in Scotland). This programme has been extended to include secondary school boys aged 12-13 (11-12 in Scotland), from September 2019.
This vaccination offers protection against 4 HPV types, including the high risk types 16 and 18.
Boots recognise that some people may wish to consider vaccination against HPV, either for themselves or their children, but that they're outside the age range of the NHS programme.
About our HPV service
The Boots HPV Vaccination Service is suitable for men and women aged 12 to 44 inclusive, subject to eligibility criteria.
Our new service offers protection against nine HPV types (types 6, 11, 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52 and 58), and so helps protect against the virus types responsible for:
• 90% of cervical, 85-90% of vulvar and 80-85% of vaginal HPV related cancers in women
• 90% of HPV related anal cancers in men and women
• 90% of genital warts in men and women
Patients aged 12 to 14 require a course of two vaccinations. One on the first visit and the second between five and 13 months afterwards.
Patients aged 15 to 44 require a course of three vaccinations. One on the first visit, the second after two months and the third six months after the first appointment.
The service is offered by specially trained Boots pharmacists in selected Boots stores.
The service may be suitable for women and men you if you:
- Are aged 12-44
- Aren’t pregnant
- Haven’t had an allergic reaction to any previous vaccination
- Feel well and don’t have a high temperature on the day of your appointment
What happens at the appointment?
Your pharmacist will tell you more about the service, including how the vaccination will be given, and will give you the opportunity to ask any questions
To make sure the service is suitable you’ll be asked about any medicines you are taking and your medical history. If you have a fever on the day of your appointment, you may be asked to return when you're better
If the service is suitable, you’ll receive your vaccination. Our pharmacists advise that you remain in the pharmacy for five minutes after your vaccination, just in case you have any immediate side effects
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How long will the in-store consultation take?The consultation will take between 20 to 30 minutes. We advise that you wear loose-fitting or short sleeved clothing for your vaccination appointment.
The number of vaccinations you need will depend on your age. If you choose to pay for each vaccination individually they will each cost £165.
Save £20 when you pay for the three vaccination course upfront - the service will cost £475.
Book your first appointment now, and your next appointments in store following your vaccination.
It is important to take precautions against sexually transmitted infections (eg by using condoms) as the HPV vaccination will not protect against every type of HPV infection, or other sexually transmitted infections.
If you’re female, it’s important to note that the vaccination is not a substitution for routine cervical screening (smear tests). The NHS offers cervical screening to women between the ages of 25-64 every three to five years. It’s important you attend these appointments.
Giving up smoking can reduce your risk of developing many cancers. Women who smoke and have a high risk type of HPV infection are twice as likely to have pre-cancerous cells. Some studies have also shown smoking increases the risk of anal and penile cancer.