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Increase in use of HPV vaccine

Use of the HPV vaccine in England to protect against cervical cancer has continued to increase since its introduction to the country's immunisation programme in 2008

A study has shown use of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine in female teenagers in England to protect against cervical cancer has continued to increase since its introduction to the country's immunisation programme in 2008.

The report, 'Annual HPV vaccine coverage in England in 2009/2010', stated that 84.1 per cent of girls involved in the first national group subject to the routine immunisation campaign, now aged 13 to 14, had had the full course of vaccine.

Of the next cohort immunised, now between the ages of 12 and 13, a total of 76.4 per cent had completed the full vaccination course in 2009-10, with the Department of Health (DH) saying more were expected to do so soon.

'Catch-up' campaigns, where girls up to 18 years old are encouraged to be immunised, also helped to increase overall coverage of the vaccine, with 60.4 per cent of all females between 12 and 19 having had the full course.

The DH said the programme was 'one of the most successful in the world' with figures indicating twice the level of vaccination coverage for a similar target group as in the US.

Robert Music, director of Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust – a UK charity to support women and their families affected by cervical cancer – 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 18 years and I urge everyone who has yet to take part in this potentially life-saving programme to do so."

According to the DH, HPV is the main cause of cervical cancer and is responsible for nearly 3,000 cases of the disease each year in the UK.

The vaccine used in England is GlaxoSmithKline's Cervarix, which protects against HPV types 16 and 18 – thought to cause over 70 per cent of disease cases.

It is hoped the immunisation programme will lead to an eventual reduction of 63 per cent in cases of invasive cervical cancer in women aged 20 to 29 years.

Speaking on the importance of the immunisation, Public Health Minister, Anne Milton, said: "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."

27th January 2011

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