From February 2017, information about the work of the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow is available and updated on the University of Glasgow website.

Experiences of the HPV vaccination programme

Girls' experiences of the HPV vaccination programme

The UK human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination programme aims to provide girls aged 12-13 with protection against two of the most carcinogenic strains (types 16 and 18) of this sexually transmitted virus which together account for 70% of cases of cervical cancer. Despite evidence suggesting a general lack of knowledge about HPV and its link with cervical cancer, vaccine uptake rates were generally high in the UK for the first year of the HPV vaccination programme. In countries that implemented the HPV programme ahead of the UK, studies have found that girls' and parents' levels of awareness about HPV have increased since implementation of the programme but that knowledge continues to be limited. This study offers some of the first insights from the UK into adolescent girls' understandings of HPV, its link with cervical cancer, and experiences of vaccination since the programme was introduced in September 2008. This work was published in 2011 and is available from PubMed.

School nurses' experiences of delivering the UK HPV vaccination programme in its first year

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common sexually transmitted infection. It is estimated that 20% of sexually active girls will contract the virus by the age of 18 years and up to 80% of women will have had an infection by the time they reach 50 years of age. Despite its frequency, only a small proportion of women who develop persistent infection from high risk genotypes go on to develop cervical cancer; 70% of infections clear within one year and around 90% within two years in the UK.

The new HPV vaccine was introduced into the UK in September 2008, to protect girls against two high risk strains of HPV that cause around 70% of cases of cervical cancer. For the HPV vaccination programme to be most effective it is recommended that young people are given the vaccine before they become sexually active. In view of this, the UK Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation recommended targeting the HPV vaccination programme at girls aged 12 and 13, with a catch-up campaign for girls up to 18 years of age being carried out over a three-year period. In September 2008, school nurses began delivering the HPV immunisation programme for girls aged 12 and 13 years old. This study offers insights from school nurses' perspectives and experiences of delivering this new vaccination programme. The first year of the implementation of the HPV vaccination programme in the UK exceeded school nurses' expectations, and some of its success may be attributed to the school nurses' commitment to the programme. It is also the case that some school nurses believed the programme had vastly increased their workload leading them to cut back on their core activities and as such they could no longer dedicate time to offer support to vulnerable pupils. This unintentional aspect of the programme may be worthy of further exploration. This work has been disseminated to policymakers.



Hilton S, Hunt K, Bedford H, Petticrew M. School nurses' experiences of delivering the UK HPV vaccination programme in its first year. BMC Infectious Diseases 2011;11:226

pubmed  open access  

Hilton S, Smith E. 'I thought cancer was one of those random things. I didn't know cancer could be caught…' adolescent girls' understandings and experiences of the HPV programme in the UK. Vaccine 2011;29:4409-15

pubmed  open access  

Project Leader

Project Staff

Former Staff

  • Emily Smith

External Collaborators


  • HPV Human Papillomavirus
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