The government’s HPV vaccination programme for girls under 16 is being put at risk by a school nurse shortage and because schools are opting out, nurses have said.
A motion submitted by Kathleen Deeney of the RCN United and Homefirst Branch called for young people to have equal rights of access to the HPV vaccine.
In December 2008, health secretary Alan Johnson told primary care trusts to ensure that all girls aged 12-17 were vaccinated against human papillomavirus following the success of a programme aimed at 12-13 year olds. More than seven out of ten 12-13 year olds have now received the first stage of the vaccination, the Department of Health said.
However, Ms Deeney said that schools opting out of the programme were putting girls’ lives at risk by ‘opting out’ of the programme.
‘If a school opts out of this programme there needs to be a contingency plan to ensure young girls are able to access the vaccine,’ she said.
‘This is a public health issue. It is a preventable disease. The programme is there as a national programme - it needs to be as open as it can be to protect childen in the future,’ she said.
Saffron Brown, from the Association of Nursing Students, said: ‘Young people are increasingly portrayed in a negative light. They have become a socially excluded group. We need to lobby the government for adequate healthcare and to provide equal access to the HPV vaccine.’