Azara Blog: Government wants all girls to be vaccinated against HPV

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Date published: 2007/10/26

The BBC says:

Schoolgirls in Britain will be vaccinated against the virus that causes cervical cancer from September 2008, ministers have announced.

This goes further than recommended by experts, with all aged 12-13 eligible, and a catch-up campaign up to 18.

It is thought that vaccinating against human papilloma virus (HPV) could save hundreds of lives in the UK each year.

The vaccine is given in three injections over six months at a cost of around £300 a course.

Earlier this year the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation recommended routine vaccination for 11 to 12-year olds, including the possibility of a catch-up campaign - but only up to the age of 16.
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It will most likely be done in schools but individual primary care trusts will be responsible for working out how to implement vaccination.
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[P]arents would have the final say as to whether their child received the injection.
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Sarah Lotzof is a GP at Dedicated Doctors, a private clinic that has been offering the vaccine. She told BBC Radio 5 Live the vaccines were needed.
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"We can stop possibly 85% of people who would have died of cancer dying - and at the moment over 1,000 women are dying of this disease in this country now."

About 80% of sexually active women can expect to have an HPV infection at some point in their lives.

It is held responsible for some 70% of cervical cancer cases, a disease which kills 274,000 women worldwide every year, including 1,120 in the UK.
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Other European countries including Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Italy, France, Norway, Luxembourg and Belgium have approved a vaccination programme.

Experts said the programme would be more expensive than all other childhood immunisations and the benefits would not be seen for decades, but eventually it would be worth the cost.

Health secretary Alan Johnson said: "As a society we need to do more to prevent disease and not just treat it.
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He added that 400 lives could potentially be saved each year, with many women prevented from getting HPV in the first place.

The BBC article quotes a per course cost but not a total cost, and it seems that it will run into 100 million pounds per year. If Johnson's figures are correct, and 400 lives are "saved" (i.e. prolonged) then that equates to society paying 250000 pounds per life (and this, far out into the future). And this is completely ignoring the possible short term and long term side effects of these drugs. As with any drug, some girls will suffer immediate negative reactions, and we will only find out decades in the future whether there are any long term problems. Apparently the effect of the drugs has to last for 20 years for the cost to make any sense, and apparently so far these drugs have only been shown to work for 5 years. And it will be interesting to see how much parental choice there really will be. The medical profession in the UK (as elsewhere) is very good at ignoring the views of people and just doing what it wants (hey, they're doctors, they must be right).

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