Young people * Healthy living

Doctors call for alternative genital warts vaccine

Doctors call for vaccine against genital warts NHS vaccine not as effective

Nine out of ten sexual health experts say they would advise their own daughters to pay for a different vaccination against human papilloma virus (HPV) rather than accept the one available on the NHS.

Since 2008, all 12-14 year old schoolgirls have been offered the Cervarix HPV vaccine which protects against two types of human papilloma viruses - HPV 16 and HPV 18 - which cause around 70 per cent of cervical cancer cases.

However, another more expensive vaccine - Gardasil - also protects against HPV6 and HPV 11, which cause nine out of ten cases of genital warts and around a third of minor (non-serious) cervical smear abnormalities. The viruses also cause most cases of warts on the vocal cords.

In a survey carried out for the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH), 93 per cent of sexual health doctors advised using the Gardasil vaccine.

Of those who actually had daughters in the school vaccination programme, 61 per cent had paid for their daughters to be vaccinated with Gardasil rather than Cervarix, and some had given Gardasil to their daughters after they had already had the other vaccine at school.

The organisation of sexual health professionals is due to take the survey findings to Parliament to highlight the need for an HPV vaccine that prevents both cervical cancer and genital warts.

Genital warts is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the UK. Around 90,000 new cases of genital warts are diagnosed each year, and a further 70,000 need repeat treatments.

The highest rates of diagnoses are among women aged 16-19 and men aged 20-24.

Dr Liz Foley, who conducted the research, said: “The misery of genital warts could be largely eradicated if young people were given the quadrivalent HPV vaccine”.

Dr Keith Radcliffe, president of BASHH said: “It’s obviously important that young women should be protected against cervical cancer, but Parliamentarians need to have all the facts about both HPV vaccines, so we can have a proper debate about which drug represents the best value for money for the health service over the long term.

“If the government had purchased Gardasil back in 2008, like almost all other developed countries did at the time, today we could be well on the way to eradicating genital warts."

This article was published on Mon 14 February 2011

Image © Leah-Anne Thompson -

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