Doubt on HPV jabs for schoolgirls

Mass vaccination of secondary school girls against HPV could result in long-term side-effects, warn US researchers.

An HPV vaccination will be introduced in schoolgirls in 2008
An HPV vaccination will be introduced in schoolgirls in 2008

The first vaccine against HPV, Gardasil, was granted a licence by the European Medicines Agency in September, permitting its use in females aged 9-25 years.

But the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation's HPV subgroup has yet to make a decision on whether the cervical jabs will be available on the NHS.

In an editorial in the journal JAMA, the researchers said that the HPV vaccine was supported by 'limited efficacy and safety data'.

'Clinical trials have thus far involved a relatively small population, less than 12,000 participants, for a limited period of follow-up: five years,' they said.

Although the vaccine would be administered to girls aged 11-12, it has yet to be evaluated for efficacy among this age group.

It would therefore be unwise to require a young girl with a low lifetime risk of cervical cancer to be vaccinated, the researchers said.

Research is also needed to show how long the HPV vaccination protection would last and to assess whether there would be any side-effects from the jab.

Additionally, the researchers suggested that boys might also need to be vaccinated because 'studies have shown that men can have at least as high a prevalence of HPV infection as women'.

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