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Focus needed on reducing variation in HPV jab uptake

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Almost 90 lives could be saved every year if almost all teenage girls were given the HPV jab, experts have said.

If 96% of girls decided to have the vaccine, which protects against the human papilloma virus, then 198 cervical cancer cases and 87 deaths could be prevented every year, according to researchers from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).

In 2008 the HPV vaccination programme was launched in England to vaccinate girls aged 12-13 to help prevent cervical cancer.

“We have the potential to save even more lives and prevent women from undergoing treatment for what is now largely a preventable disease”

Michael England

The figures, which are being presented to Public Health England’s annual conference in Warwick, show that the national uptake of the vaccine stands at around 86%.

But there are wide regional variations of uptake, with just 62% of girls in some areas receiving the jab and 96% of girls being vaccinated in others.

Experts at the drug company said that if uptake across the whole of England matched the best regions, then 2,528 cases of pre-cancerous cells that need treatment could be prevented, as well as the cases of cervical cancer and the deaths from the disease.

Dr Michael England, medical director for vaccines at GSK, said: “These figures make it clear that, even though we have relatively high uptake of the HPV vaccine, we could make a dramatic difference by making simple improvements to the programme.

“Treatment for cervical cancer and pre-cancerous lesions can be traumatic and have long-lasting effects among women affected by the disease, who are often relatively young,” he said.

“By focusing on reducing regional variation and increasing uptake across the country within the existing programme, we have the potential to save even more lives and prevent women from undergoing treatment for what is now largely a preventable disease,” he added.

 

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