We investigated the effect of social inequalities on the uptake of human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination, combining data from a feasibility study conducted in 2007-2008 in 2817 secondary schoolgirls in two UK primary-care trusts, with census and child health records. Uptake was significantly lower in more deprived areas (P<0·001) and in ethnic minority girls (P=0·013). The relatively small proportion of parents who actively refused vaccination by returning a negative consent form were more likely to come from more advantaged areas (P<0·001). Non-responding parents were from more deprived (P<0·001) and ethnic minority (P=0·001) backgrounds. Girls who did not receive HPV vaccination were less likely to have received all their childhood immunizations particularly measles, mumps and rubella (MMR). Different approaches may be needed to maximize HPV vaccine uptake in engaged and non-responding parents, including ethnic-specific approaches for non-responders.