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NHS urge parental consent as HPV vaccinations fall

Doctor giving HPV vaccination
Children aged 12-13 are offered the vaccine at schools and community clinics - ELVA ETIENNE/MOMENT RF

HPV vaccine uptake fell by up to 10 per cent last year among schoolchildren as jab rates continue to drop post-pandemic.

The NHS has urged young people to get their HPV jab after new figures revealed more than 120,000 teenagers in year 10 who should have had the vaccine for human papillomavirus are not protected.

HPV is the name of a very common group of viruses that affect the mouth, throat and genitals. It spreads easily through skin-to-skin contact of genital areas and can be caught through vaginal, anal and oral sex.

It can cause a range of cancers, including cervical cancer, which the NHS has committed to eliminate by 2040, as well as head and neck, anal and genital cancers.

All children aged 12 and 13 years old are offered the HPV vaccine at schools and community clinics during year eight or nine, but parents are required to give their consent.

Uptake among boys in year nine fell to 69.7 per cent in 2022 to 2023, while for girls it was 75.7 per cent, meaning more than a quarter of the year group was unvaccinated.

The uptake was down from 77.6 per cent for boys and 82.2 per for girls in the previous year, according to UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) figures.

It comes amid a measles outbreak that experts have said is linked to falling MMR vaccination rates, which have consistently fallen over the last decade, suggesting fewer children are getting routine immunisations.

The number of children in year 10 who were not vaccinated against HPV also increased last year, with 78.6 per cent boys and 83.2 per cent girls having had a jab, down from 81.5 per and 86.5 per cent respectively.

The NHS said it meant more than 50,000 girls and 70,000 boys were not protected.

Most children only need one dose instead of two following updated guidance last year, which still provides “excellent protection”, and young adults are able to catch up on missed doses until their 25th birthday.

Steve Russell, the NHS director for vaccinations, said the health service was “urging parents of young people eligible for a vaccine to consent to their children getting their HPV vaccines from nurses when they visit schools.

HPV vaccine
Most children only need one dose instead of two following updated guidance last year - ANILAKKUS/ISTOCKPHOTO

“With just one dose now offering full protection to under 25s, it is easier than ever to ensure your child is fully protected – so please do check your child’s vaccination status and consent for them to get vaccinated if they aren’t up to date – vaccination saves lives.”

It is the latest sign of lowering vaccination rates among children, with fewer than 85 per cent of the population having full protection against measles, mumps and rubella, latest data has shown.

Dr Vanessa Saliba, consultant epidemiologist at UKHSA, said: “The HPV vaccination programme is one of the most successful in the world with millions of doses given since it started in 2008. It has dramatically lowered the rates of cervical cancer and harmful infections in both women and men – preventing many cancers and saving lives.

“All girls and boys in year 8 are eligible for the HPV vaccine and evidence now shows that one dose gives excellent protection. We urge everyone who is eligible to take up this potentially lifesaving vaccine when offered.”

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