All girls who were born between 1 September 1990 and 31 August 1991 will be offered the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine to protect them against the viruses that are the most common cause of cervical cancer, Health Minister Edwina Hart has announced today.
This is in addition to the routine vaccination programme that has been introduced for all 12 and 13 year old girls this year and the catch-up campaign planned for the next two years.
This extension to the programme will offer protection to about 20,000 more girls. Today's announcement means that girls, who would not otherwise have been included in this catch-up, will now be vaccinated this school year.
Not all HPV infections will be prevented by the new vaccine. It is important to remember that young girls being vaccinated now will still need to go for regular cervical cancer screening and that other women will need to continue to attend.
The extension to the vaccination has been made possible due to savings made during the negotiations in the procurement process of the vaccine by the Department of Health on behalf of the four UK health departments. The same vaccine – Cervarix – will be used and produced by pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline.
In Wales, there have been on average about 155 cases of cervical cancer a year.
Health Minister Edwina Hart said: Last month I announced the next steps in delivering improvements to cancer services in Wales. Key to those improvements was investment in prevention as well as speeding up access to diagnosis and treatment.
Our policy to vaccinate girls against cervical cancer is one of the biggest public health campaigns in recent history. Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women world wide. This vaccine protects women against two strains of the HPV virus that cause 70 per cent of the cases of cervical cancer and could save hundreds of women across the UK.
I am pleased that due to the savings that have been negotiated in the procurement of this vaccine we are able to extend the vaccination programme to 17 and 18 year olds in the next academic year.
We will be providing extra support to Local Health Boards in guidance and funding to ensure that the roll out of this vaccination programme is a success.
Dr Richard Roberts, Head of the Vaccine Preventable Disease Programme in the National Public Health Service for Wales, said: It is good that we are now able to double the number of young women who will be protected against the most common causes of cervical cancer in the first year of the HPV programme. Although the extension of the programme will be challenging for the NHS, past experience shows that local health services are committed to protecting as many of our children and young people as possible through immunisation.