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Why is the HPV vaccine needed?

The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine currently used in the UK protects against nine types of HPV virus. Two of the types, HPV-16 and HPV-18, are high risk strains which together are responsible for about 70% of cervical cancers.

In addition, the HPV vaccine also protects against HPV-6 and HPV-11, the two strains of HPV that cause more than 90% genital warts.

HPV also causes other types of cancer that can affect men and women including:

  • Some mouth and throat (head and neck) cancers
  • Some cancers of the anal and genital areas

How HPV causes cervical cancer

If you become infected with one of the high-risk strains of HPV, and your immune system does not deal with it, the infection can lead to the growth of pre-cancerous cells in your cervix. This is known as cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN).

It can take around 10 to 15 years to develop cervical cancer after infection with HPV.

More information on cervical screening is available here: What is cervical screening? - Public Health Wales (

Why cervical screening is important

The HPV vaccine does not protect against all types of HPV, so it is not guaranteed to prevent cervical cancer.

This is why regular cervical screening continues to play an important role in detecting potentially cancerous cell changes in the cervix.

Protecting against other health conditions

While the HPV vaccine protects against genital warts, it does not:

  • treat an HPV infection already present
  • protect against every type of HPV. Some kinds of HPV may cause other diseases or conditions, including cancers, against which the vaccine may not provide protection.
  • protect against other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Using condoms offers the best protection against STIs.


Last Updated: 13/03/2023 13:48:50
The information on this page has been adapted by NHS Wales from original content supplied by NHS UK NHS website