Sexual health specialists want all 12 and 13-year- old schoolgirls to be vaccinated against genital warts, the UK's most common viral sexually transmitted infection, when they receive their cervical cancer jabs...

The call has come from the British Association of Sexual Health and HIV, which represents clinicians who staff genito-urinary clinics dealing with people who develop sexually transmitted infections such as herpes and chlamydia. They say the pain and misery involved in getting genital warts is so great that the routine vaccination of girls is needed to tackle the condition, which affects about 200,000, mainly young, people every year.

Since 2008, 12- and 13-year-olds have been offered a series of three jabs to vaccinate them against cervical cancer. About 80% receive the injections, which offer 95% to 100% protection against the human papilloma virus (HPV), which causes the disease. HPV also causes genital warts, as well as conditions such as skin warts, verrucas and several other rarer cancers.

The vaccine girls currently receive, called Cervarix, only protects against cervical cancer. But new research shows that the vast majority of sexual health doctors want that replaced with a two-in-one vaccine called Gardasil, which is more expensive than Cervarix. Cervarix protects against strains 16 and 18 of HPV, but Gardasil covers those and also strains 6 and 11, which cause genital warts.

Dr Clare Gerada, chair of the Royal College of GPs, backed the call. "Yes, girls should be given the dual-purpose vaccine. It makes sense to immunise them against both. Genital warts are grim and lifelong."

The Department of Health hinted that it was considering making a change. It had chosen Cervarix in 2008 "as it offered the NHS the best overall value", a spokeswoman said. "Subsequently, new research has been published that this vaccine provides cross-protection against more of the strains that cause cervical cancer, thus helping to prevent even more of the disease." The department is updating the way it calculates the cost-effectiveness of the HPV vaccine as it prepares to buy new supplies later this year for the latest immunisation programme," she added.

Posted by Penny Hosie on 14.2.11
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