Uptake of cervical cancer jab 'encouraging'

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Indy Lifestyle Online

A vaccination programme to protect girls against cervical cancer is one of the most successful in the world, the Department of Health said today.

The jab works against key strains of the sexually transmitted infection human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes most cases of cervical cancer.

Latest data for England shows 84% of girls aged 13 to 14 - representing the first year of the programme - have had all three doses of Cervarix jab.

Of those in the second year, aged 12 to 13, 76% have had all three doses, with more expected to do so.

The vaccine is given in three doses over a minimum of six months to ensure adequate protection.

More than four million doses of the vaccine have been given in the first two years of the programme.

The data also revealed that, among girls aged 12 to 19, 60% have had all three doses.

A catch-up programme up to the age of 18 is still running, and parents are being urged to ask their GP for the jab.

According to the Department of Health, the uptake figures are already more than twice as high as those for girls of a similar age in the US.

Around eight out of 10 sexually active women will contract HPV at some point in their lives.

The infection clears itself up within two years in some 80% of cases but women are at high risk of re-infection.

Public health minister, Anne Milton, said: "Being able to help protect young women against this disease is a fantastic development and the uptake is very encouraging.

"But we can always do more. This vaccination reduces the risk of cervical cancer and will save up to 400 deaths every year in the UK.

"I would ask every girl between 12 and 18 who has not considered vaccination or who has not completed the full course to speak to their school or GP - all three doses are needed for full protection."

More than 2,800 women a year in the UK are diagnosed with cervical cancer and almost 1,000 die from it every year.

Another 24,000 women get smear test results each year showing severely abnormal changes to the cells of their cervix, indicating the likelihood of cancer unless treatment is given.

Robert Music, director of Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust, said: "It is encouraging to see that many girls are getting vaccinated against HPV but we would like to see this increase further.

"We must remind girls that they are eligible for vaccination up to the age of 18 and I urge everyone who has yet to take part in this potentially life saving programme to do so.

"Research has shown that if uptake is 80% year-on-year, we could see a two-thirds reduction in cervical cancer incidence in women under 30 by 2025.

"I cannot see any greater incentive to do all we can to ensure as many young women as possible are vaccinated."