Cervical cancer vaccination programme to be extended

In collaboration with the Press Association

The national immunisation programme to provide protection against the virus responsible for 70 per cent of cervical cancers will be extended to protect an additional 300,000 girls between the ages of 17 and 18, the government has announced.

The Cervarix vaccine is designed to protect against the two main types of cervical cancer-causing human papillomavirus (HPV) - strains 16 and 18 - and was originally scheduled to be given to girls between the ages of 12 and 13 starting from this September, along with a two-year catch-up programme for 15 to 18-year-olds from September 2009.

Now, public health minister Dawn Primarolo has revealed that a further 300,000 girls aged 17 to 18 will be offered the vaccine this September thanks to savings made during the vaccine procurement process.

"Our policy to vaccinate girls against cervical cancer is one of the biggest public health campaigns in recent history. It will mean that up to 400 girls' lives will be saved each year," the minister revealed.

"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," she continued. "This could save an additional 400 lives."

Primary care trusts (PCTs) will be given additional support and funding to ensure the roll-out of the vaccine is a success.