HPV Vaccine Can Reduce Cervical Cancer Cases

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Cases of cervical cancer will be reduced by up to 70 per cent with the introduction of a new vaccine into the national immunisation programme.

The Department of Health has agreed, in principle, to accept JCVI advice that HPV vaccines should be introduced routinely for girls aged around 12-13 years, subject to independent peer review of the cost benefit analysis.

Funding for this will be considered in the context of the Comprehensive Spending Review.

Human Papilloma Viruses cause 99 per cent of invasive cervical cancer. The vaccine protects against the viruses responsible for about 70% of cases.

Routine vaccination of girls could start as early as autumn 2008. Details of the programme will be finalised over the next few months, following further advice from JCVI and discussions with the NHS on the implementation of the programme.

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Public Health Minister Caroline Flint said:

"Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer of women worldwide. In the UK alone, the lifetime risk of developing cervical cancer is one in 116.

"It is great news that vaccines have been developed that protect women against this form of cancer and I am delighted to announce that we intend, in principle, to introduce an HPV vaccine into the national immunisation programme.

"The benefits of introducing this vaccine will be felt by women and their families for generations to come. In England, 2221 new cases of invasive cervical cancer were diagnosed in 2004 alone. In addition around 200,000 women in England are identified through the cervical screening programme (smear tests) as having a pre-cancerous change.

"This vaccine will prevent many women from catching the HPV virus in the first place, potentially saving hundreds of lives.

"A significant amount of planning is required before we can introduce the immunisation into our programme. We are still working on the details and logistics, and will work closely with the NHS to ensure the vaccination can be delivered effectively. However, we are hoping that girls will start being vaccinated from as early as 2008."

The highly successful and comprehensive cervical screening programme (smear tests) will continue after an HPV vaccine has been introduced. This is because of the gap between the age of vaccination and age of first screening. Also, screening will be required as the vaccine does not protect against all HPV types that may cause cervical cancer.

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