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COVID-19 and the HPV vaccine

Information for teens, parents, schools and health professionals

Many people have reported that COVID-19 anxiety or the illness itself, restrictions and school closures have impacted their opportunity to have the HPV vaccine.

Now things are getting back to normal it’s important to remember that it is recommended that all children aged 12–13 years have the HPV vaccine and that two doses are required at least six months apart. The HPV vaccination is most effective when given at a younger age, before sexual activity has commenced. Having the vaccine now means children will be less likely to develop HPV-related cancers or genital warts in the future.

While COVID-19 has disrupted our lives, the benefits of HPV vaccination are long lasting. It is vital that teens, parents, schools and health professionals make every effort to encourage their young people to have their HPV vaccine as close to the recommended schedule or catch up as soon as possible so they don’t get left behind.

These questions might be on your mind.

HPV-related cancers and sexual activity are a long way off in my child’s future. Can’t I just wait until the immediate COVID-19 situation calms down before they get the HPV vaccine? 

The HPV vaccine is most effective when given to children between ages 9 and 14. Research shows that younger people create more antibodies to the vaccine than those aged in their late teens. This is why those aged 14 and under only need two doses instead of three. Delaying vaccination to an older age means that a third dose is needed, and HPV vaccination may not be free of charge.  

Other medical issues don’t stop because of COVID-19. During what is already a difficult time, it is vitally important that people look after their health. While the HPV virus might not seem like a priority now, COVID-19 should not prevent us from  taking the best possible care of our children and protecting their future. 

Having the HPV vaccine is the same as any other vaccine – it is to protect your child over the course of their life, not because they are likely to be exposed to HPV in the near future.

I‘ve had COVID and am still feeling unwell. Can I go ahead with my HPV vaccine?

If you are still impacted by COVID-related symptoms, it is best that you wait until you feel well to have the HPV vaccine. If you miss getting the HPV vaccine at school, you can catch up on any missed doses by calling your doctor or local immunisation provider.

Our school was closed the day we were supposed to be given the vaccine. Will they re-schedule it and let us know?

Speak to your school or school immunisation provider to find out the arrangements for your school if your child missed the vaccination. The HPV vaccine is also available at your GP free of charge for those aged under 19 years. The GP may charge a service or appointment fee.

How long do I have to wait after a COVID vaccination or booster to have the HPV vaccination? Or vice versa?

No time at all. There is no minimum amount of time required between the HPV and COVID vaccinations so technically, you can have both on the same day! 

I missed one or both of the HPV vaccines because of COVID but I still want to get the full course of both shots. What should I do?

If you have the first dose of the HPV vaccine as part of the school program but have missed the second dose, you will need to ‘catch up' this dose. If you are unsure how many doses you have had, you can check your immunisation history statement on the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR). 

It is important that you have both doses of HPV vaccine to best protect yourself from HPV-related illness in the future.

Depending on where you live, the missed dose might be given through your school, at a special catch-up clinic or by your local doctor. Contact your local school immunisation provider if you're not sure where to get a 'catch-up' dose. 

If you have missed both doses of HPV vaccine, your local doctor can give you the vaccination. When making the appointment, let them know it is to receive the vaccine so they can prepare ahead and ensure they have the vaccine available. Some local councils also provide catch-up vaccination clinics. 

If my child missed a dose, will they need to restart their HPV vaccination schedule from the start?

No. It is not necessary to restart the HPV vaccine schedule if the schedule is interrupted because of COVID-19 – your immune system has a great memory!. It should, however, be resumed as soon as possible.

What steps are our school and immunisation providers taking to keep teens safe from COVID on vaccination day?

Local council immunisation services and secondary schools are continuing to work together to safely deliver the secondary school immunisation program during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

All COVID Safe protocols are followed by professional trained immunisation providers, generally nurses. Schools are provided detailed information about keeping their students safe on vaccination days.

I'm a GP with teen patients. What should I be looking out for or advising?

GPs have an important role to play in checking HPV immunisation status of teens that they see and administering any missed doses. 

With many teens missing school over the past two years, plus ongoing infections, we all need to work together to make sure HPV doses are caught up for our teens. 

If you are unsure about a patient’s vaccination status, always check the Australian Immunisation Registry (AIR), then offer any missed vaccinations, and upload the new record to AIR.

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Design and partial content reproduced with the kind permission of the New Zealand Ministry of Health.

The HPV vaccine is a prescription medicine. Medicines have benefits and risks. After reading this website, talk to your doctor about the benefits and risks of this vaccine and to check eligibility.

Females who have had the HPV vaccine still need regular Cervical Screening Tests.