Switch in cervical cancer vaccine

HPV on a smear The human papilloma virus can cause cervical cancer and genital warts

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The Department of Health has decided to change the vaccine it uses to protect girls against cervical cancer throughout the UK.

From September next year it will use the Gardasil jab, which also offers protection against genital warts - one of the most common sexually transmitted infections.

Some sexual health experts criticised the decision in 2008 when the Department of Health opted for the cheaper of the two vaccines on offer - Cervarix.

Both vaccines protect against human papilloma virus (HPV) types 16 and 18, which cause more than 70% of cervical cancer.

But Gardasil, which the Department of Health has now opted for, also protects against HPV types six and 11 which cause nearly all genital warts.

Figures from the Health Protection Agency show that 75,000 people were diagnosed with genital warts in 2010.

Professor David Salisbury, the Government's Director of Immunisation, said: "It's not unusual for the NHS to change vaccines or other medicines - it can happen following competitive tendering exercises or when new research findings come to light."

He denied that the wrong choice of vaccine had been made three years ago, adding that the decisions then and now were both "scientifically and economically justifiable".

Dr Steve Taylor, consultant in sexual health medicine at Birmingham Heartlands hospital said the news was "fantastic".

He added: "In Australia the burden of genital warts has fallen dramatically since the introduction of the quadrivalent vaccine (Gardasil).

"We felt last time round the decision was based on the vaccine cost, and yet the reduction in the burden on sexual health clinics was not taken into account."

Gardasil, made by Sanofi Pasteur MSD, is the most widely used of the two vaccines. Eighty million doses have been distributed worldwide compared to 25m of Cervarix, which is manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline.

Girls are offered the HPV vaccine at secondary school when aged 12-13.

The Department of Health says 400 deaths a year from cervical cancer will be prevented by the vaccination programme.

Fergus Walsh, Medical correspondent Article written by Fergus Walsh Fergus Walsh Medical correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    my daughter is currently part way through the course of injections at school, when i asked about the better vaccine i was told that to get it privately would cost me the better part of £400, typical that the government have now decided to take notice of the recommendations and go for the better option.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    As a medical student, I was getting lectures on these vaccines last week; Cervarix is more effective against the cancerous forms of the virus, so even though it's great to prevent the warts we'd be decreasing effectiveness of the vaccines against cervical cancer; precisely what the jab is for in the first place. Worth a think...

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Whilst the experts ponder the benefits and costs of one vaccine over another it should be recognised that some girls are suffering severe side effects from these vaccines. My 12 year old daughter has been very ill with ME since having the Cervarix vaccine in October. Not everyone has a bad reaction but for the few who do the side effects can be devastating.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    I think people may misunderstand and panic that they've been given a "less effective" vaccine. From what I understand, the new vaccine is not more effective at preventing cervical cancer, just that it protects against genital warts too.If you're sensible,it shouldn't be a problem if you don't have the new form of the vaccine. However, it would have made sense for the new one to be given originally

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.


    Sure - we want to prevent cancer, no-one disagrees with that. However, the decision is more likely to have been made on a cost-benefit calculation, where there are (I assume) many more cases of warts which take time and money to treat. Therefore, the more cost effective vaccine is chosen.


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