24th August 2008, by Joanna Corrigan, The Telegraph

Cervical cancer jab for women aged 19 to 24

Young women could be offered a vaccine against one of the most common causes of cervical cancer, under an extension of a controversial programme to immunise teenage girls.

The Government is considering giving more than a million women aged between 19 and 24 the option of having the jab against the human papilloma virus (HPV).

Routine vaccinations against HPV are already being offered to schoolgirls aged 12 to 13 from next month despite claims from some parents it will “sexualise” them at a young age.

The virus is primarily passed on through sexual contact, meaning it must be administered before girls become sexually active to provide optimum protection. However, critics fear it could lead to sexual promiscuity among teenagers who believe they are protected.

Another 300,000 more girls aged 17 and 18 will also be offered the jab for the first time this September, while a catch-up programme for 14 to 18-year-olds starts next year.

A possible further extension to older women flies in the face of Government advisors’ recommendations it would not be cost-effective and has surprised experts.

Older women only gain limited protection from the vaccine because they are likely to be sexually active and therefore may have already been exposed to the virus.

Professor Margaret Stanley, an adviser to the HPV sub-group of the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation, described the move as a “remarkable volte-face”.

“Vaccinating older girls and women who have active sexual lives will have an effect but it will be much less than immunising the virgins,” she said.

“There is the real anxiety that these older girls and women may think that they had had a magic bullet, are protected, don’t go for their smears and the cancers aren’t picked up at an early stage.”

Read the original and full article here:  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/2614196/Cervical-cancer-jab-for-women-aged-19-to-24.html

For more information if you, or your daughter, have experienced new health problems after HPV vaccination:  http://timeforaction.org.uk/has-your-family-been-affected/