Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccination
Cervical Cancer affects the neck of the womb (cervix) and is most common in 30-49 yr age group. Its prevalence is about 2000 new cases per year but this is decreasing as the national cervical screening programme becomes more successful. Cervical cancer develops from abnormal cells. The cells become abnormal after they have been infected with Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). This is a very common virus, which many people will be exposed to in their life (only passed on through sexual intercourse). There a number of sub-types of the virus but it is believed that only certain ones cause diseases such as cervical cancer and genital warts. Only a small proportion of people who are infected with HPV will develop any form of disease/condition.
Vaccination against Human Papilloma Virus
There are two new vaccines to help in the fight against cervical cancer by protecting against some forms of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). The two vaccines do not cover all types of sub-type of HPV but do target some important ones. HPV 16 and 18 cause 70% of cervical cancer cases and types 6 and 11 cause 90% of genital warts. Appropriate vaccination can offer substantial benefits to a large number of people who receive it.
Cervarix offers protection against HPV types 16, 18, 31 and 45. It is produced by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). It has a good efficacy, with additional immuno-technology to make the vaccine more effective. The government has recently chosen this vaccine as their preferred option in the national campaign. This vaccine is given as three doses (same as for Gardasil). It has a wider UK licence; being given to individuals up to the age of 45 years. It does not have any claims of protection against the genital warts element of HPV infection.
Gardasil offers protection against HPV types 6,11,16 and 18, which may help protect against Cervical Cancer/Cell Abnormalities and Genital Warts (this is not a licensed indication but an observed benefit). Gardasil is licensed for administration to females from age 9 to 26 (however males can be given it off licence). The duration of protection remains under research. It is possible that individuals may need a booster or even regular courses, e.g. every 5 years. We have to await more research.
HPV Vaccination can only protect against the 4 relevant HPV strains if you have not been exposed to them yet, preferably given before intercourse is considered. To this end the government intends a national campaign*, vaccinating girls aged 12-13yr (with an initial ‘catch-up’ campaign for those individuals who will be 18 yr or less by September 2009). Individuals outside this campaign cannot receive the vaccine under the NHS.
*Government Information about HPV Vaccination
Provision of HPV vaccination
We would recommend all those eligible for the national programme to have their vaccination through the NHS. Those outside the government’s criteria can access either vaccine privately. We can vaccinate you whether you are registered with UNHS or not.
The cost is £130 per dose and 3 doses are required for initial cover.
There is now a new version of Gardasil that offers more protection and is priced £150 per dose.
Gardasil and Cervarix do not protect those receiving it from all types of HPV infection or all cervical cancers. It is essential females continue to participate in the national screening programme at the appropriate age.
Gardasil and Cervarix are not licensed for use in pregnancy.