September 4, 2008

Girls Targeted in Campaign for Cancer Jab

By Kate O'Hara

Social networking sites have already been targeted to encourage girls to have the jab, which helps protect against human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes the majority of cervical cancer cases.Primary care trusts across Yorkshire, including Leeds, Bradford and Airedale, Sheffield and Hull, will join the rest of the country when they start vaccinating pupils aged 12 and 13 (Year 8) from this week onwards, and around 300,000 girls will receive the jab in England alone.By July 2011, more than two million girls will have been offered the vaccine, including those up to the age of 18 as part of a catch-up programme.Earlier this week the Government targeted social networking websites Habbo Hotel and Lola's Land, which are now are featuring adverts for the vaccine.Adverts and text on the Lola's Land website for young girls says: "Remember chica, this is a totally life-saving, revolutionary vaccine!"Let's fight cervical cancer together and arm ourselves against it!"Adverts and question and answer-style features have also been put on the Habbo Hotel "virtual world" website.The Government's main campaign will run this month and next, with some follow-up advertising in February to remind girls not to miss their third and final injection.Girls aged 17 and 18, who form part of the catch-up programme, will be targeted in a different campaign in October.Primary care trusts are responsible for administering the jab, which is not compulsory, in England. Most of the injections in Yorkshire will be given by school nurses but the trusts stressed the need for parental consent.News of the campaign comes after a former school nurse expressed her belief that there might not be enough staff to deliver the jabs, but PCTs in Yorkshire said they did not envisage any problems.In Bradford the head of children and family services Cathy Woffendin said: "We have planned and budgeted for delivering the HPV vaccine in schools and have secured additional staff to do this."School nurses are accustomed and very skilled at delivering immunisation programmes and we don't anticipate any workload issues. However, we will continue to monitor any impact that it has on our workforce."The HPV vaccine protects against over 70 per cent of the strains that cause cervical cancer, which accounts for around 1,000 deaths a year in the UK.The Department of Health announced in June that pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline had won the contract to provide the Cervarix jab.The move led to an outcry from some campaigners, who said the decision was based on cost and that the Government should have opted for the vaccine Gardasil, from Merck, which also protects against genital warts.Smear testing will continue even after the vaccine is introduced.This is because of the gap between the age of vaccination and the age of first screening, and because the jab does not protect against all HPV types that may cause the disease.As well as those diagnosed with cancer, around 200,000 women a year in the UK have pre-cancerous changes to their cervix picked up through smear tests.Spare your daughters my ordeal, mother implores parentsA BRADFORD mother-of-three is urging parents to make sure their daughters have the new vaccination to protect them against cervical cancer.Karen Butler is determined that her three girls, aged 12, 14 and 16, will be immunised in a bid to prevent them from going through the same ordeal as her when she was diagnosed with the disease three months ago.Abnormalities were discovered during a routine smear test carried out by her GP last April. Mrs Butler had a hysterectomy and is still going to her consultant for final check-ups.She said: "I would recommend anything that could stop my girls going through what I went through. I definitely want them to have the immunisation whilst they are young enough for it to be most effective."I had so many examinations and scans. It was a really worrying time and an emotional roller- coaster journey. And yet I know I am one of the lucky ones it could have been much worse."Around 3,200 girls aged 12 and 13 will be immunised across Bradford and Airedale starting next month.They will be given a course of three jabs in school throughout the school year to make sure they get the best possible protection against the human papillomavirus (HPV) which can develop into cancer later in life.Before school nurses can give the vaccine parents and guardians will be asked to give written consent.Shirley Brierley, public health consultant at Bradford and Airedale Teaching Primary Care Trust, said: "Our priority is to protect girls in their early teens and I would urge all girls in these age groups to have the full course of jabs which is necessary to protect themselves against cervical cancer."Once our new annual school programme is up and running we will focus our efforts more on how best to target older girls."It is important for women to continue to have cervical smear tests as the national cervical screening programme remains essential to the prevention of cervical cancer and will remain unchanged following the introduction of HPV immunisation."

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