Briefing for secondary schools

This guide will help you learn what to expect during the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) immunisation programme at your secondary school this year.

We'll also signpost you to relevant resources.

Please share this guide with all school staff who need to know about the programme.

The HPV vaccine will be offered to every S1 pupil in Scotland.

The vaccine is offered in secondary school to ensure easy access for eligible pupils. 

To give the best protection, the HPV vaccine is given in one dose.

Read more about the HPV vaccine and the HPV school campaign on NHS inform (external website).

About the vaccine

Evidence is clear that the HPV vaccine helps protect all pupils from cancers caused by HPV, including:

  • cervical cancer (in females and anyone with a cervix)
  • head and neck cancers (which are most common in males)

The HPV vaccine is the safest way to protect against HPV-related cancers. 

The vaccine also helps prevent against genital warts. 

The HPV vaccine protects against the types of HPV that cause 75% of cervical cancer cases. 

These two types of HPV also cause: 

  • 90% of anal cancers (approximately)
  • 85% of head and neck cancers
  • 78% of vaginal cancers
  • 50% of penile cancers
  • 25% of vulval cancers across the world (statistics vary country to country) 

The HPV vaccine is offered to all S1 pupils in secondary school because it is most effective before they become sexually active. 

The vaccine is safe for everybody. 

It meets high safety standards required for it to be used in the UK.  

Side effects

The HPV vaccine has been given safely to tens of millions of people worldwide. 

The common side effects of the vaccine are quite mild.  

Most common side effects are felt around the area of the arm where the injection is given. This may include: 

  • soreness
  • swelling
  • redness
  • mild itching 

Less common side effects include: 

  • headaches
  • nausea
  • fever 

These side effects are detailed in the information leaflet, which is for pupils and their parents or carers to read with their consent form.  

Long-term adverse events following immunisation have been studied extensively in clinical trials and other robust population studies, and no adverse events have been linked to the vaccine.  

As with all vaccines, once they are in use, their safety continues to be monitored by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) through the Yellow Card Scheme.  

Visit the Yellow Card Scheme (external website).

Consent guidance and parental consent

Boxes of consent packs will be delivered to each school. These should be distributed to young people and their parents and carers. 

Young people are encouraged to discuss immunisation and consent with their parents or carers. 

Young people and their parents or carers should sign and return the consent form to school even if the young person is not going to have the vaccine.

Even if their consent form is not returned, young people under 16 can give consent if the vaccinator feels they understand:

  • what's involved
  • any potential risks and benefits

Learn more about consent and consent guidance for HPV vaccinations.

Preparing for HPV immunisations in school

Once consent packs are delivered to schools, it's important that these are distributed to reach young people and their parents and carers as soon as possible.

The consent packs are pre-printed. They will be provided to you ready to distribute.

Before giving out packs, make teachers and staff aware that forms are personalised for each young person.

Blank consent packs are provided and can be used if a personalised form for a pupil is missing.

Parents and carers need to return completed consent forms to schools as soon as possible.

All teachers and staff must know where to return the consent forms. The consent forms should be returned in their envelopes.

Your local NHS health board will arrange a date with you to collect returned parental consent forms.

If possible, please use school methods to remind parents and pupils to return completed consent forms. Communication methods can include:

  • newsletters
  • social media such as Twitter or Facebook
  • email
  • website content

We have produced digital resources for the HPV vaccination programme.

Social media assets and an email template can be downloaded for use by your school.

School staff may wish to use digital resources in class or on social media.

We have produced a classroom activity sheet and a short animation for this purpose.

View the digital HPV education resources for schools.

Last updated: 11 November 2022