Page last updated at 13:30 GMT, Thursday, 3 September 2009 14:30 UK

HPV vaccination hits 70% uptake

Human papillomavirus
The vaccine works by making girls immune to strains of a STI

Some 70% of 12-to-13-year-olds in England have been fully vaccinated against cervical cancer in the first year of the programme, figures show.

In the last school year 87% had at least one of the three doses needed to protect against HPV - the virus linked with most cervical cancers.

The Department of Health says 80% coverage is needed to achieve "herd immunity" but it has not set a target.

A staggered catch-up campaign is planned for older schoolgirls.

The programme's biggest challenge is to ensure that all girls who are eligible for the catch-up vaccine are immunised
Robert Music, Jo's Trust

The HPV vaccine had attracted some controversy as it works by making girls immune to a sexually transmitted infection.

It was initially offered to all 12-to-13-year-olds across the UK but a staggered catch-up campaign for 14-to-18-year-olds is due to get underway in England, Wales and Northern Ireland when schools go back in September.

In Scotland, vaccination of older girls has already started.

Robert Music, director of the Jo's Trust cervical cancer charity, said: "Given the HPV vaccine was only introduced last September, it is a positive start to this important programme for 70% of eligible girls to have received all three doses of the vaccine.

"The programme's biggest challenge is to ensure that all girls who are eligible for the catch-up vaccine are immunised."

Other vaccines

The NHS Information Centre report also showed that in 2008-09 uptake levels of MMR vaccine for two-year olds remained at around 85% for the third year running - still short of the 90% target.

By age five, when children are recommended to have a second dose, the latest uptake figures are 78% - the highest level since the data was first collected in 1998.

There are still many children out there who were not vaccinated as toddlers over the past decade and remain unprotected

Since 2005, the number of cases of measles has been rising year on year.

The figures also show that 74% of over 65s received the seasonal flu vaccine last winter.

A Department of Health spokesman said: "Uptake of the vaccine against cervical cancer has reached high levels since its introduction a year ago and it is encouraging to see an increase in the number of children who have received two doses of MMR by their 5th birthday.

"But we cannot afford to be complacent - the number of children getting MMR vaccine still falls short of the levels needed for universal protection."

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