Fall in vaccinations against cancer-causing HPV for Islington girls

HPV vaccine uptake in Islington has fallen from pre-pandemic levels, new figures show.

By Sonja Tutty, Data Reporter

An arm receiving an injection
Photo: RADAR

HPV vaccine uptake in Islington has fallen from pre-pandemic levels, new figures show.

Jo’s Cervical Cancer trust said the decline in uptake must be “reversed quickly” so progress in decreasing instances of cancer caused by HPV is not lost.

Girls in England are offered free HPV jabs at school during years 8 and 9, when they are aged between 12 and 14.

Data from the UK Health Security Agency shows 64.3% of year 9 girls in Islington had both HPV jabs in the 2021-22 academic year.

It means 276 of the 773 girls in the cohort were not fully vaccinated.

Although the jab rate was up from 41.4% the previous year, when Covid restrictions impacted the vaccination programme in schools, it was down from pre-pandemic levels in 2018-19 when uptake was at 65.6%.

Some girls were given the second shot in year 10 due to the impact of school closures the programme — 41.4% of this cohort across Islington had both jabs.

The HPV vaccination protects against the human papilloma virus, which is responsible for most cervical cancer cases, as well as some other rarer cancers.

Samantha Dixon, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust chief executive, said cases of cervical cancer have fallen 87% in vaccinated women, so progress cannot be lost.

“More education about the HPV vaccine, and how it can protect against cervical cancer, could help reduce vaccine hesitancy and tackle barriers to uptake,” Ms Dixon added.

She said this is vital in areas with high levels of social deprivation or among children that have been excluded from school.

“The HPV vaccine – combined with cervical screening – gives us the opportunity to prevent many cases of cervical cancer and save many lives.”

Across the country, about 67.3% of year 9 girls were fully vaccinated last year – a drop from the level seen three years before, when 83.9% had both shots.

North Somerset had the lowest level of coverage with just 17.7% of year 9 girls fully vaccinated, while Stockport had the highest level at 91.6%.

Dr Vanessa Saliba, consultant epidemiologist at the UKHSA said, “In recent years we have seen vaccine coverage fall due to the challenges posed by the pandemic.

“Many young people who missed out on their vaccinations have already been caught up, but more needs to be done to ensure all those eligible are vaccinated.”

Ms Saliba added that children and young people who missed out on the vaccine should contact their school nurse, school immunisation team or GP to arrange getting the shots.

People are eligible for the jabs up until their 25th birthday.

“The vaccine works and will save lives,” Ms Saliba said.

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