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Fresh round of HPV vaccination planned after poor uptake among young women

By Nigel Praities

GPs face a further round of vaccinating young women against HPV after Government figures showed a disappointing number have received a full three doses under the catch-up campaign.

The Department of Health and Health Protection Agency’s evaluation published this month showed under a third of women aged 17 to 18 years had completed their third dose of the HPV vaccine.

The report concluded the programme had achieved ‘high vaccine coverage’ in girls aged 12 to 13 years in its first year, with 88% of 12 to 13 year olds in England starting their first dose and 80% completing their third in 2008/09.

But of the older catch-up group, 62% started their first dose, and this fell to 32% for the third dose.

The report admitted the catch-up campaign had been hobbled as GPs had little time to prepare and because many PCTs had not included schools and colleges in the scheme.

‘As a large proportion of this cohort was offered the vaccine through GPs and [they] had a relatively short time to prepare to deliver the catch-up programme, the catch-up progressed more slowly,’ the report says.

It goes on to recommend that PCTs should plan for an additional round of vaccinations to ensure that girls given only one or two doses under the catch-up campaign could complete the course: stating: ‘PCTs will wish to consider how to provide for these courses to be completed. Data for these young women will continue to be collected.’

The figures could threaten plans – as revealed by Pulse last year – to extend the programme to at-risk women aged 18 to 25 years.

Dr Sarah Gray, primary care lead for women’s health for Cornwall and Isles of Scilly PCT and a GP in Truro, said the report showed that it was important to get GPs on board early; otherwise efforts to vaccinate would fail.

‘In our area, we were up with the game. We got primary care on board and were already up and running. Our initial figures on vaccination have been some of the best in the country,’ she said.

Dr Gray disagreed with the suggestion in the report that schools needed to be involved more: ‘We delivered the entire campaign in primary care and this ensured that the right advice was going out and girls were encouraged to come back,’ she said.

A fresh round of HPV vaccination is planned A fresh round of HPV vaccination is planned