Back in 2008, a vaccine programme was introduced in the UK to protect girls against human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV can cause skin and genital warts and HPV-associated cancers such as cervical cancer, some other cancers of the genital areas and anus, oral cancer and some cancers of the head and neck. Human Papillomaviruses cause more than 99% of all cervical cancer,1 with two subtypes 16 and 18 accounting for most cervical cancers.
These subtypes are covered in the HPV vaccine. Cervical cancer is the most common cancer among women under the age of 35. The programme was originally targeted at 12-13-year-old girls with a catch-up programme for females aged 14-18 years in 2008-10. At the time it was considered more cost-effective to vaccinate girls only and that immunising girls against the virus would offer herd protection to boys.2