London's Young Women Lack Cancer Protection

Merck’s human papillomavirus vaccine Gardasil is used in the NHS vaccination program
london street with sun peeking out
United Kingdom (Vax Before Travel)

In some parts of the United Kingdom (UK), young women did not complete their full cancer prevention vaccination during the 2017-18 academic year, reported Public Health England (PHE). 

As of August 2018, a total of 83.8 percent of eligible young women in the UK had received both doses of the cervical cancer prevention vaccine, according to the PHE’s December 2018 report. 

The 2018 vaccination compliance was a small improvement when compared to 83.1 percent reported by PHE in 2017. 

Additionally, PHE reported 57,048 young women did not receive the 2 doses regimen required to be protected for the cancer-causing human papilloma (HPV). 

Moreover, 38,172 had not received the 1st HPV vaccine dose. 

PHE said in its report that the HPV vaccine was ‘effective at stopping girls from getting the types of HPV that cause most cervical cancers,’ and it is ‘important to have both vaccine doses to be properly protected.’ 

And, while PHE exceeded its national target of immunizing 80 percent of all young women, the HPV vaccination rate varied significantly between local areas in the UK. 

The December 2018 PHE statistics showed local variations such as: 

  • Hampshire, Isle of Wight, and Thames Valley (90.2%),
  • London (78.4%),
  • Northern Ireland (84.7%),
  • Scotland (86.6%),
  • Wales (80.3%).

This PHE report said the vaccine rate variations were related to specific program issues in local areas, such as: 

  • reductions in school nursing service capacity,
  • fewer catch-up opportunities,
  • concerns about the HPV vaccination, and,
  • higher rates of non-return of consent forms and/or vaccine refusals. 

However, there is some good news for young men living in the UK. 

The PHE announced it is extending HPV vaccinations to young men in the same age group. 

And, it is expected that from the 2019/20 academic school year, 12 to 13-year-old young men will also become eligible. This extension will help prevent more cases of HPV-related cancers such as head, neck and anogenital cancers. 

This decision was based on advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation. 

The HPV vaccine currently used in the NHS vaccination program is called Gardasil. Prior to September 2012, a vaccine called Cervarix was administered. 

These HPV vaccines have been used worldwide for many years in counties such as Australia, Canada, the UK, the US and most of western Europe. 

More than 80 million people have been vaccinated worldwide, says the NHS.   

A number of authorities around the world, including the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, have monitored the use of the HPV vaccine very closely for many years. 

As with all medications and vaccines, there are some mild side effects associated with the HPV vaccination. Read more about the possible side effects of the HPV vaccine. 

For more information please visit the NHS website.