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HPV vaccination may be given to schoolgirls

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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.

pulse@cmpmedica.com

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