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The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has recommended that adolescent girls should receive a vaccination against HPV, the virus which causes cervical cancer.

HPV

The recommendation is in principle only, and will be subject to further cost benefit analysis. It is estimated that it will cost £250 per child – more than all of the immunisations a child currently receives put together. By my maths, that’s something in the region of £81 million a year. To compare, the current cervical smear screening programme costs the NHS £157m per year (although a full cervical screening programme would need to continue for at least another 20 years alongside it).

The vaccine is 99% effective in preventing HPV when it is administered to girls before they have had any sexual contact. It is estimated that it will save 1,000+ lives per year.

Amazingly enough, despite the proven effectiveness of the vaccine, some groups have been campaigning AGAINST its introduction. Our old friend the Daily Mail has published outraged articles about 12 year olds being encouraged to have unprotected sex (the logic of this utterly escapes me). Zoe Williams wrote an article about this in The Guardian recently which is worth a read.

A decision on whether or not a programme of vaccination will go ahead is expected in the Comprehensive Spending Review 2007 – much delayed, but currently expected in the autumn.

Image from euthman, shared under a creative commons license.