UK NHS finally accepts to use quadrivalent HPV vaccine in girls

From next September girls in the United Kingdom being vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV) will receive Gardasil, the vaccine that protects against genital warts as well as cervical cancer.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation recommended that the HPV vaccine should be offered routinely to girls aged 12 to 13 years and in a catch-up programme to those up to 18 years of age. Since then, 1.5 million young women and girls have been protected.

GlaxoSmithKline, which has been providing the Cervarix vaccine to the UK’s HPV vaccination programme since it launched in September 2008, said in a statement that it did not take part in the latest tendering exercise to provide a vaccine for the programme because the government made it clear that it wanted to protect girls against the types of HPV that caused cervical cancer and those that caused genital warts.

Gardasil, which is supplied by Sanofi Pasteur MSD, protects against HPV types 16 and 18, which cause 70% of cervical cancers, and HPV 6 and 11, which are responsible for nine in 10 cases of genital warts. Cervarix protects against HPV types 16 and 18.

When the UK programme launched, health campaigners criticised the choice of Cervarix as being short sighted and a missed opportunity (BMJ 2008;336:a451, doi:10.1136/bmj.a451)

Worldwide Gardasil has been the vaccine of choice. It has been selected by health authorities in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, and Sweden for regional or national vaccination programmes against cervical cancer.

Research from Australia has shown that cases of genital warts have nearly disappeared since 2007 when the national vaccination programme against cervical cancer using Gardasil was introduced (Sexually Transmitted Infectionsdoi:10.1136/sextrans-2011-050234). The study found that new diagnoses of genital warts among women under 21 years attending a sexual health centre in Melbourne fell from 18.6% in 2007-8 to 1.9% in 2010-11 and in heterosexual men aged under 21 from 22.9% to 2.9%. During the period before the introduction of the vaccination programme, new cases of genital warts rose by 1.8%.

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