HPV vaccine recommended for immunisation programme

The government has announced the introduction of a human papilloma virus (HPV) immunisation programme starting in September 2008.

The programme will involve the routine vaccination of girls aged 12–13 years against cervical cancer. There will also be a two-year catch-up campaign, starting in Autumn 2009, for girls aged up to 18 years.

Currently in England there are about 2,200 cases of cervical cancer a year, with about 800 deaths. HPV causes 99 per cent of invasive cervical cancer, and it is estimated that HPV vaccines could reduce the number of cases by 70 per cent.

The routine HPV immunisation programme could cost up to £100m a year and the catch-up programme may cost up to £200m in 2009/10 and 2010/11, but the Department of Health (DoH) aims to negotiate a reduction in the vaccine price during the procurement process.

Primary care trusts will plan how to deliver the vaccination programme locally. However, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has advised that HPV vaccination would be most efficiently delivered through schools.

Implementing the programme will be complex, as three doses of the vaccine are required to provide protection.
Currently, two licensed HPV vaccines are available, Gardasil and Cervarix; however, no decision has been made on which of the two vaccines will be used.

Following advice from the JCVI, the cervical screening programme will continue after the HPV vaccination programme has been introduced. This is necessary because the vaccine does not protect against all HPV types that may cause cervical cancer.

The JCVI carried out a detailed review of the evidence surrounding HPV vaccination before presenting the following:

  • Routine vaccination of girls aged around 12–13 years is recommended.
  • Catch-up programme for girls under the age of 18 years is recommended.
  • There is evidencethat a catch-up programme for all women aged 18–25 years was unlikely to be cost effective but could benefit some individual women; the DoH will consider this further.

Further information on the HPV vaccination programme and the JCVI recommendations is available at www.dh.gov.uk.

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