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GSK WIN CERVICAL CANCER JAB CONTRACT

GlaxoSmithKline announced recently that is has received a three year contract from the Department of Health to supply the immunisation programme for the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, Cervarix. 

Around 300,000 girls per year are expected to receive the HPV vaccine, according to Reuters Health, starting in September. HPV is believed to trigger 70% of cases of cervical cancer and research released earlier this year suggests that vaccinating 70% of girls would ultimately halve the incidence of cervical cancer. 

HPV is believed to trigger 70% of cases of cervical cancer 

As the virus is sexually transmitted, the vaccine has to be given before the girls become sexually active to offer maximum protection. So, the goal is to vaccinate girls aged between 12 and 13, with a catch up campaign for girls up to 18 years of age starting August 2009, reports The Times. 

“We are keen to introduce an educational programme into schools which raises young people’s awareness of this serious health risk”

The government has been accused of putting cost before health with the choice of GSK’s Cervarix over its rival Gardasil, a vaccine by Merck and Sanofi-Aventis. Cervirax, the cheaper option, offers immunity to two strains of HPV whilst Gardasil protects against four strains of the virus along with genital warts and lesions. Countries including the US, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Switzerland have or will be using Gardasil. 

The vaccination programme has faced opposition from religious groups that argue that vaccinating promotes teenage sex, while The Royal Society of Health charity, charged with promoting awareness of the issue through schools’ involvement, argues that in the UK, every one of the 2800 cases of cervical cancer per year and 1,100 deaths is associated with a previous HPV infection: “This is why we are keen to introduce an educational programme into schools which raises young people’s awareness of this serious health risk.” 

It takes between 10 and 20 years for a cancer to develop after HPV infection so any benefits in relation to cervical cancer won’t be seen for quite a long time, states Cancer Research UK, and “the trials done so far have only looked at preventing HPV infection. These vaccines haven’t been designed to treat women already infected with HPV. A UK trial is planned which will look at a vaccine to treat women already infected with HPV.” 

 

Useful links: 

The Royal Society for the Promotion of Health www.rsph.org 

Cancer Research UK www.cancerhelp.org.uk 

Cervical Screening (NHS) www.cancerscreening.nhs.uk/cervical 

Jo’sTrust Cervical Cancer charity www.jotrust.co.uk