About this release

This release by Public Health Scotland provides an annual update on Human Papillomavirus (HPV) immunisation coverage rates. Coverage rates are reported for males and females in their first and second year of secondary school (S1 and S2), and for females in their third and fourth year of secondary school (S3 and S4) in 2020/21.

These statistics are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic; this was the second consecutive year when the HPV immunisation programme in Scotland was not fully completed during the school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and associated school closures. The statistics reported here reflect immunisation coverage at the end of the school year, defined as 31 July 2021. NHS Boards are running catch-up programmes for any pupils not offered the vaccine during 2020/21, and coverage rates are expected to increase.

Main points

  • By the end of the school year, 77.2% of all S3 females and 85.4% of all S4 females had completed the two dose course of HPV immunisation. The equivalent figures in 2019/20 and 2018/19 respectively were 82.5%, 85.4% (S3) and 87.3%, 88.6% (S4). Many of these pupils would have been immunised in previous school years when they were first offered the vaccine.
Image caption Trend in completed course, HPV immunisation coverage rates for S3 females in Scotland; School years 2011/12 to 2020/21
Line chart showing the trend in coverage of the completed course of HPV immunisations from 2011/12 to 2020/21 among girls in S3 in Scotland. The schedule changed from 3 doses to 2 doses from 2014/15 onwards; this is highlighted on the chart. The trend is described in the accompanying text.
  • Although coverage of the first dose of the HPV vaccine was close to or over 90% by the end of S4 in each of the deprivation categories, females from the most deprived areas were less likely to receive the second dose compared to those from the least deprived areas (80.4% vs. 90.1%).
  • Coverage of the first dose for S1 pupils in 2020/21 was 52.1% (compared to 58.0% in 2019/20 and 85.1% in 2018/19). Coverage was 54.7% in females and 49.6% in males.
  • By the end of S2, 83.4% of females and 77.8% of males had received the first dose. This was an additional 22.4% for females and 22.7% for males on those who had received the first dose by the end of S1 last year. Among S2 pupils eligible for the second dose in 2020/21, coverage for females was 36.4% (compared to 58.4% in 2019/20) and coverage for males was 31.8%.


The school-based HPV immunisation programme aims to help protect both boys and girls from developing HPV-related cancers (including cervical, anogenital and head and neck) later in life. The most common HPV-related cancer is cervical cancer.

The routine HPV immunisation schedule is two doses of vaccine to complete the full course, typically given in S1 and S2. Eligible pupils who have not started or completed their course of immunisations are given other opportunities to be vaccinated in S3 and S4. While no specific target for uptake of HPV immunisation in Scotland was set, the expectation was that uptake of 80% or more should be achieved for the routine programme.

The timing of the HPV immunisation sessions during the school year varies slightly between NHS Boards. This meant when schools in Scotland closed from January 2021, these planned HPV immunisation sessions in schools for 2020/21 may not have started, and not all of the NHS Boards in Scotland had completed their HPV immunisation programme for 2020/21 by the end of the school year.

The routine eligible cohorts for 2020/21 were S1 males and females (dose 1), and S2 males and females (dose 2). Some pupils from the 2020/21 eligible cohorts who were not immunised in the period reported, may have since been immunised, with the remainder expected to be offered the vaccine during a catch-up planned in school year 2021/22.

Further information

Data from this publication are available from the publication page on our website.

The next release of this publication will be in November 2022.

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Older versions of this publication

Versions of this publication released before 16 March 2020 may be found on the Data and Intelligence, Health Protection Scotland or Improving Health websites.

Last updated: 21 March 2024
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