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HPV National Vaccination Programme for young girls
(12-13 years)

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a virus that infects the deepest layer of the skin and, for example, the lining of the cervix. There are about 100 types of HPV, of which around 40 infect the genital area. Of these, thirteen are known to cause cervical cancer, and two of these (types 16 and 18) cause over 70% of all cases.

The virus is spread during sexual activity with someone who is infected with the virus; the virus infects the entrance to the womb – the cervix. Mostly the virus is killed by the body’s immune system – but not always, if the virus stays in the body it can cause cervical cancer – sometimes many years later.

The vaccine needs to be given before someone starts having sex because having it after won’t get rid of the virus if it has already infected the cervix. There are several types of human papillomavirus that cause cervical cancer. The vaccine only prevents two of them so it is essential that women go for cervical screening tests when they are older. These tests pick up anything unusual in the surface of the cervix that might lead to cancer. Having the HPV vaccine at school will protect young girls against cervical cancer later in life.

Girls aged 12 to 13 years will be offered the HPV vaccine in year 8 of school. Three injections will be needed over a period of about six months. During 2009 and 2010 there will be a catch-up programme, so all girls leaving school after 2010 will have been protected against cervical cancer later in life.