Young girls protected against cervical cancer

By Emma Pearson.

The cervical cancer vaccine, known as the HPV jab, has been given to more than a million young girls in the UK.

Girls as young as 12 and 13 have already started to receive the vaccine since September last year, with an ongoing-two year catch up set to follow for girls up to the age of 18 launching this autumn.

The two vaccines that have been developed, called Gardasil and Cervarix, both target a sexually transmitted disease, human papillomavirus (HPV), which is believed to cause almost all cases of cervical cancer.

There are 100 types of HPV, and a mere 13 of them are known to cause cancer. The others are either harmless, or cause genital warts.

Tim Straughan, chief executive of the NHS Information Centre, says: “Our statistics show that in the first school year of the HPV vaccine being offered, 70 per cent of eligible girls completed the full course of all three doses.”

One of the young girls preparing for the vaccine is 17-year-old Danielle Pearson from Hull. She says she is not convinced whether or not the injections are necessary. She is “dreading” the vaccination because she is terrified of needles.

“I am weary as to whether it has been properly tested and if it does actually work, as it has not been around for very long. I feel three injections done within six months just to be protected from one disease seems a bit much,” she says.

After undergoing extensive research and safety checks before the introduction the HPV vaccine, the overall safety record has proven to be good, with a tiny minority of girls developing minor side-effects, such as headaches, nausea, and dizziness. Only 4,657 adverse reactions where noted after 1.4 million vaccinations.

Despite this, the statistic comes at a worrying time after 14-year-old Natalie Morton died shortly after having been vaccinated. Tests have verified the vaccine was extremely unlikely to have caused her death, but the publics lack of understanding of the immunisations is causing some panic amongst parents and the young girls themselves.

Emily Jones, a spokesperson from Marie Stopes International, a leading provider of sexual and reproductive heath care services, has great confidence in the vaccine.

“The vaccine is a great leap forward in the prevention of cervical cancer, it is important to remember that it is not a cure-all and will only protect against certain strains of HPV. It does not protect against all cervical cancers and it is still very important to develop a cervical screening culture among women of all ages,” Jones says.

Harriett Brewitt, a student from Lincoln College, agrees and says she thinks the vaccine is an extremely good idea and any preventative measure to stop cancer should be welcomed.

“The minute risk is worth the long term reassurance, as a small injection is nothing compared to having a deadly disease,” says Brewitt.

She says the only ill-effect of having the inject was that her arm became “quite stiff and sore” for a time.

It is though that it will take up to 10 years to show whether vaccination has been successful and prevented more cases of cervical cancer in women.

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