HPV vaccination may be given to schoolgirls
By Emma Wilkinson
Government advisers are considering introduction of an HPV vaccination programme, Pulse can reveal.
The HPV subgroup of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation decided at a meeting in May there was sufficient efficacy data to support a decision.
The subgroup discussed modelling data on the benefits of a school-based programme targeting young girls.
Introduction of a vaccine programme would begin to impact on cervical cancer screening within 10 to 15 years, the sub-group heard. Vaccination might eventually make screening redundant with smears used for control purposes instead.
The modelling work, prepared by scientists at Imperial College London, found vaccinating school-age girls was the most effective strategy for preventing cancerous lesions.
It would only be cost-effective to vaccinate boys if uptake in girls was under 75 per cent, although they might need to be included in initial catch-up campaigns.
A source who attended the sub-group meeting told Pulse a second meeting was taking place in two weeks' time, when members would discuss further work on the cost-effectiveness of a national programme.
Dr George Kassianos, a GP in Bracknell, Berkshire, and immunisation spokesperson for the RCGP, said HPV vaccination should be introduced as soon as possible.
'It's of paramount importance. I see it starting in the nine to 15 age group when they are still at school but we'll probably need a catch-up campaign in 16- to 24-year-olds,' he said.
'The JCVI needs to make a decision soon and by spring there will be two vaccines licensed.'
Dr Anne Szarewski, clinical consultant at Cancer Research UK and a researcher on cervical cancer, said the US had gone for a school-based programme in girls. 'But in the UK we have a good screening programme so it becomes more difficult. Vaccination is clearly going to have an effect in the long-term but they have to look at costs now.'
Dr Szarewski said Merck's Gardasil would be granted a European licence next month but GlaxoSmithKline's Cervarix would not be licensed until February or March.