Low take-up of HPV cervical cancer vaccine in Cornwall

Cervical cancer cells

The number of teenagers in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly who have had the vaccine which protects against cervical cancer is one of the lowest in England.

About 64% of teenage girls in the county have had the full vaccine course, down from 80% in 2010.

In England, the average is 90%. Jersey has the highest uptake of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine with 92%.

Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust, which highlighted the figures, said it was concerned by the low uptake.

According to the trust, the only area lower than Cornwall is Hackney in London.

The programme consists of three injections over a period of six months.

About 78% of girls do have the first of three injections, but the number falls for the remaining two jabs, according to the trust.

NHS Cornwall said the take-up of the vaccine had decreased from 80% of girls between September 2009 and August 2010.

Dr Kerry Bailey, a Consultant in Public Health with Cornwall Council, said: "This jab can protect you against cervical cancer.

"There's very few cancers we can protect ourselves against. That's why we would encourage parents to take their girls in to get the vaccine."

About 900 women die of cervical cancer in England each year, Dr Bailey said.

The vaccine offers 70% protection against HPV, a sexually transmitted infection which causes cervical cancers.

Robert Music, Director of the trust, said: "We are concerned with the large number of girls in Cornwall who are not being vaccinated, a number considerably higher than the rest of England.

"We need to make sure everything is being done to increase uptake as the vaccine could quite simply save lives."

Sandra Cousins who lost her daughter Mercedes Curnow to cervical cancer, said: "We all know teenagers are sexually active at a young age.

"Young people do need to be informed about the correlation between HPV and cervical cancer and that needs to be addressed in schools."

Ellis Moore, 14, from Falmouth, who had the vaccination, said: "Just go and do it. Have this injection. It doesn't hurt.

"It could save your life and prevent you from getting cervical cancer."

According to Cancer Research UK, there are hundreds of different types of HPV and most are harmless.

But the charity said about 13 types of HPV can cause cancer.

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