Young people * Women's health * Healthy living * Sexual health

Experts call for cervical cancer vaccine change

Experts call for cervical cancer vaccine change Other vaccine also prevents against genital warts

Changing the cervical cancer vaccine used in the UK would save the NHS millions of pounds and reduce the number of people who get genital warts, experts have said.

Genital warts are the most common viral sexually transmitted infection in the UK. Treatment for people with genital warts costs the NHS in England around £17 million a year, experts at the Health Protection Agency said.

However, they suggest that a large number of cases and costs could be avoided if the NHS switched to using a quadrivalent cervical cancer vaccine (Gardasil) instead of the trivalent one (Cervarix A), which is already in use in vaccination programmes in the UK.

The trivalent vaccine used in the UK immunisation programme protects against human papillomaviruses HPV 16 and 18, which cause over 70 per cent of cervical cancer cases.

The vaccine has been routinely offered to 12 to 13 year old girls in the UK since 2008. Coverage among 12-13 year olds is over 80 per cent, and 50 per cent in those who missed the vaccine the first time.

But the more costly quadrivalent vaccine, manufactured by Sanofi Pasteur MSD, gives protection against human papilloma viruses HPV 6 and 11, which cause most cases of genital warts, as well as against cervical cancer.

Writing in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections, the researchers argue that it would be more cost effective for the UK to adopt the quadrivalent vaccine. The contract for the trivalent vaccine is due for renewal this year.

A recent survey carried out by the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASSH) found that nine out of ten its members supported using Gardasil instead of Cervarix A.

This article was published on Thu 4 August 2011

Image © Leah-Anne Thompson -

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