Cervical Cancer Prevention Week: Concern over drop in HPV vaccine coverage among secondary school pupils

The UKHSA is urging young people to catch up on missed HPV vaccinations as Cervical Cancer Prevention Week gets underway

The latest UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) report has shown that coverage of the routine adolescent human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is yet to return to pre-pandemic levels for year 8 and 9 pupils. The vaccine is primarily delivered in schools but the numbers are still concerningly low according to the government.

The HPV vaccine is offered to all 12 to 13 year olds in school years 8 and 9 and follows a two-dose schedule. HPV vaccine coverage decreased by 7% in year 8 girls and 8.7% in year 8 boys in 2021 to 2022 when compared to the previous academic year.

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The data suggests the NHS has already caught up many children who missed out on their HPV vaccine since the start of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, with dose one uptake improving for children in year 9 and year 10, but coverage remains below pre-pandemic levels.

The programme in England has been shown to have dramatically lowered rates of harmful infections and cervical cancer in vaccinated women, with the strongest effects seen in those vaccinated at younger ages, and is saving lives. It is for this reason there has been a further push towards making sure the vaccine is received by those eligible.

Dr Vanessa Saliba, Consultant Epidemiologist at UKHSA, said: “The HPV vaccine is available for girls and boys in year 8 and we encourage everyone eligible to take up this potentially life-saving vaccine when offered. In recent years we have seen vaccine coverage fall due to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many young people who missed out on their vaccinations have already been caught up, but more needs to be done to ensure all those eligible are vaccinated.

The uptake of vaccines has decreased

“Children and young people who have missed out on their HPV vaccinations should contact their school nurse, school immunisation team or GP surgery to arrange a catch-up – they remain eligible until their 25th birthday.”

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