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Government chooses HPV vaccine for campaign

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The government has opted for the bivalent vaccine Cervarix for its new routine immunisation programme against human papillomavirus and cervical cancer.

The vaccine, developed by GlaxoSmithKline, protects against HPV types 16 and 18, which is thought to protect against an estimated 70% of cervical cancers. The vaccination campaign is due to begin from this September, targeting girls aged 12-13, before being rolled out next year to women up to the age of 18 in a catch-up campaign.

Health minister Dawn Primarolo said: ‘This vaccine could save the lives of 400 women a year. It is an exciting opportunity to immunise young girls against the future risk of cancer, the impact of which will be felt by women and their families for generations to come.’

The decision to pick the GSK product comes at the expense of Gardasil, a quadravalent HPV vaccine that protects against four virus types including one that causes genital warts, developed by Sanofi Pasteur MSD.

‘It is difficult to understand why the Department of Health has missed a huge opportunity to protect an entire generation of young women against genital warts by not choosing the Gardasil vaccine,’ said Julie Bentley, chief executive of the Family Planning Association.

‘Genital warts is the second most common sexually transmitted infection in the UK after Chlamydia,’ she said.

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