According to new annual data published by Public Health England (PHE), the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) national vaccination programme coverage rate remained high in 2012 to 2013, with 86% of the target age group (12- to 13-year-old girls) in England receiving the full course.
Further, a recent PHE study published in ‘Vaccine’ provides important new evidence that the programme is successfully preventing HPV infections in young women in England. The research found HPV infections (type 16 and 18) in around 1 in 5 sexually active women aged 16 to 18 years prior to the immunisation programme, dropping to 1 in 15 following its introduction.
Samples from over 4,000 women aged 16 to 24 from 2010 to 2012 were compared with similar samples taken in 2008, just before the programme began. The findings show a low prevalence of HPV infections (type 16 and 18) after the programme’s introduction, compared to the prevalence observed prior to it. HPV types 16 and 18 have caused 70 to 80% of cervical cancers.
In the post-immunisation study, HPV 16 and 18 prevalence was lowest among 16 to 18 year-olds, the age group with the highest vaccination coverage (65% coverage), and increased with age. This is a reversal of the age trend seen in the 2008 sample, where the youngest girls had the highest prevalence of HPV 16 and 18.
Dr Kate Soldan, head of PHE’s HPV surveillance, said:
These data show that as expected the HPV immunisation programme in England is reducing HPV 16 and 18, and doing so very substantially. We observed a clear correlation between immunisation coverage and reduced type 16 and 18 HPV infections. This adds to our confidence that the programme will achieve its aim of reducing cervical cancer. This may be of interest to countries that have yet to implement a programme of their own.
The benefits delivered by the immunisation programme are in addition to the considerable benefits provided to women by the national Cervical Cancer Screening Programme. Cervical screening remains important for women to reduce their risk of cervical cancer as vaccination does not protect against all cancer-causing HPV types.
Notes to editors
Annual HPV vaccine coverage in England: 2012 to 2013. Published by Public Health England on 10 December 2013.
Reduction in HPV16 and 18 prevalence in sexually active young women following the introduction of HPV immunisation in England. Mesher, Soldan, Howell-Jones et al. Vaccine 32 (2014) 26 to 32.
There are about 100 different HPV types, about 40 of which infect the genital tract. The vast majority of these sexually transmitted HPV infections cause no ill-effects. However, some types, notably HPV 16 and 18 can cause cervical cancer in women. Other types (HPV 6 and 11) can lead to genital warts.
The national HPV immunisation programme began in England in 2008, offering routine immunisation to 12 year-old girls and catch-up immunisation to girls up to 18 years. Three vaccine doses are given.
The bivalent HPV vaccination (Cervarix) which was used in England from 2008 to 2011 is a vaccine against HPV 16 and 18. The quadrivalent vaccine (Gardasil), which has been used since September 2012, also provides protection against HPV 6 and 11, the cause of genital warts.
More information about HPV, cervical cancer and genital warts is available on PHE’s HPV page.
Public Health England’s mission is to protect and improve the nation’s health and to address inequalities through working with national and local government, the NHS, industry and the voluntary and community sector. PHE is an operationally autonomous executive agency of the Department of Health. www.gov.uk/phe Follow us on Twitter @PHE_uk