HPV, or the Human Papilloma Virus, can cause cells in the cervix to change gradually over time. This may lead to the formation of pre-cancerous cells and in some cases can lead to cancer.
In the UK, all 12 to 13-year-old girls are offered the HPV vaccination through the national HPV immunisation programme. In Nottingham, the vaccinations are administered by school nurses who are employed by Nottingham CityCare Partnership, the leading provider of community health services in the city. CityCare’s trained team of specialist nurses work with schools in Nottingham to ensure pupils are properly protected and immunised.
Since the immunisation programme was launched in Nottingham in 2008, 6,318 girls aged 12 to 13 have received all three doses of the HPV vaccine spaced over a six month period.
Team manager for school nurses at Nottingham CityCare Partnership Sheila Munks said the uptake in vaccination was encouraging, but stressed that there were still some misconceptions about the immunisation.
Mrs Munks, who has worked on the school nurses team for 30 years supporting generations of Nottingham ‘s school children, said: “Since launching the programme in Nottingham we have seen a steady increase in the number of girls being vaccinated against HPV.”
“In 2008-2009 we reached 78 per cent of 12 to 13 year old girls in the city with all three doses of the vaccine, followed by 82 per cent in 2009-2010, 87 per cent in 2010-2011, and 90 per cent in 2011-2012 and 2012-2013.”
“This vaccine is very important as it can prevent girls getting the virus, which as we saw in the case of celebrity Jade Goody, can sadly be fatal.”
“But there is still some misconception about the vaccination. The virus can be passed on through sexual contact and sexually active people are more likely to get it. Some parents therefore see the vaccination as giving out the wrong message about sex, but we counter this by explaining the vaccine is the most effective way to combat the virus before a girl becomes sexually active, hence the target age of 12 to 13-year-olds.”
Mrs Munks added that the aim was to reach 100 per cent of girls in the city with the vaccination. She said: “We are working to reach as many girls as possible before the virus enters their bodies and so far we are doing very well.”
“We also stress the importance of having regular smear tests too, as having the vaccine does not mean that in later life you don’t need to go for smears – you do. The vaccine and smears combined give us the best chance of beating cervical cancer.”
Parents who are interested in finding out more about the HPV vaccine can contact the Nottingham CityCare Partnership school nurses team of the HPV Coordinator Andrea Newsome on 0115 8839792.