Vaccinate children against sexually transmitted diseases, say doctors

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Five vaccines should be given to teenagers to protect them against potentially deadly diseases, specialists say.

The new vaccines are needed to protect teenagers against sexually transmitted infections and illnesses such as chickenpox that are more severe in adolescence, the experts believe.

At present only one vaccination is given in adolescence - a triple booster delivered in a single shot against diphtheria, tetanus and polio which is administered to schoolchildren between the ages of 13 and 18.

The five extra jabs include the newly developed vaccine against human papilloma virus (HPV), the sexually transmitted infection linked with cervical cancer which kills more than 1,000 women a year.

Two versions of the vaccine have been licensed and the Government's Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is expected to recommend a national programme to vaccinate 11-12-year-old girls in June.

Professor Andy Hall, a member of the committee and a professor of epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said the JCVI was awaiting a "final analysis" and there were outstanding issues around the cost to be resolved.

"It is quite an undertaking to put a vaccine programme in place," he said.

Adam Finn, a professor of paediatrics at Bristol University, said:"It is my belief that over the next 10 years we are going to see a really major shift to an effective adolescent vaccine programme."

He said the HPV vaccine should be introduced "as soon as the logistics [of delivering it to all 11- to 12-year-old girls] can be worked out."

Universal hepatitis B vaccination was also necessary to bring the UK into line with Europe and protect teenagers against the infection, spread by sex and sharing needles in drug use.

Professor Finn said there was a "strong case" for a booster against pertussis (whooping cough) to be given in adolescence.

Chickenpox vaccination should be given to all adolescents who had not had the illness (and acquired immunity) in childhood. The fifth immunisation would be against four strains of meningitis - A, C, W, and Y. A sixth vaccine, against herpes, was close to being licensed, he added.

Loretta Brabin, a reader in women's health at Manchester University, said "a minority" of parents worried that giving HPV vaccine to girls might encourage underage sex but 80 per cent supported it in surveys.