Scottish government unveils cervical cancer vaccination scheme

In collaboration with the Press Association

Teenage girls in Scotland are set to benefit from a &pound64 million immunisation programme to provide protection against the virus responsible for 70 per cent of cervical cancers.

The vaccine is being introduced in Scotland on September 1st - a year before the rest of the UK - and is designed to protect against the two main types of cervical cancer-causing human papillomavirus (HPV) - strains 16 and 18.

Girls aged 12 to 13 will be entitled to the vaccine. It will also be available to girls up to the age of 17 for three years as part of a 'catch-up' campaign to ensure as many girls as possible receive protection.

This means that around 180,000 girls will benefit from the vaccine over the next two years.

Public health minister Shona Robison announced the scheme saying: "This is one of the biggest and most complex immunisation programme ever undertaken in Scotland.

"But it has potential to deliver tremendous health benefits for future generations of young women, offering them protection against the virus responsible for almost three quarters of cervical cancers.

"That's why we've accepted the recommendations of the Joint Committee of Vaccination and Immunisation and are implementing the routine immunisation programme alongside a catch-up campaign for older girls.

"We're also acting quickly - a year ahead of the rest of the UK - to begin the catch-up process, ensuring that as many young women as possible receive the protection this vaccine can offer."

It is hoped that the vaccine will reduce the number of women diagnosed with cervical cancer, with the lifetime risk of a woman developing the disease in Scotland currently standing at around one in 124.

Sarah Woolnough, Cancer Research UK's policy manager, said: "Vaccinating girls against HPV is an exciting step towards preventing cervical cancer. With more than 300 women in Scotland diagnosed with the disease each year, today's announcement that the programme will soon be rolled out is welcome news indeed.

"But it's important to remember that the impact of the vaccination programme won't be felt for many years. This means cervical screening will remain vital in preventing the disease. We urge all women to take up the invitation when they receive it."