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HPV vaccine programme to be extended

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Around 300,000 additional girls are to be offered the vaccine against cervical cancer.

The government has announced that from September 300,000 girls aged 17 to 18 will be offered the national vaccine programme against HPV.

A routine vaccination for girls aged 12 to 13 has already been scheduled to start this September. This will be extended to include those born between 1st September 1990 and 31st August 1991.

In the school year 2009-2010 a two-year ‘catch-up programme’ will begin to vaccinate girls aged 15 to 18.

The vaccine protects against the two strains of human papillomavirus that cause 70% of cervical cancer cases. The vaccine to be used is called Cervarix, which is produced by GlaxoSmithKline.

The government, however, has faced questions over why it chose the bivalent vaccine over an alternative quadravalent version, which would have offered protection against genital worts as well.

Public health ministerDawn Primarolo said: ‘Our policy to vaccinate against cervical cancer is one of the biggest health campaigns in recent history. It will mean that up to 400 girls’ lives will be saved each year.

‘By choosing the right vaccine we have been able to make savings which means we can extend the programme to 17 and 18 year olds. This could save an additional 400 lives.’

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