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HPV vaccine to be reduced to a single dose

The human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine is to be reduced from two doses to one from September 2023 for children aged between 12 and 13 and eligible gay or bisexual men.

This follows studies, conducted by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), which show that a single dose of HPV vaccine ‘delivers solid protection and is comparable to a 2-dose schedule’.

Steve Russell, national director for screening and vaccinations at NHS England, said: ‘This is another step forward for our world-leading HPV vaccination programme, which saves lives by significantly reducing the risk of cervical cancer.

‘With one quick HPV jab now making it simpler than ever to reduce your risk of cancers caused by the virus, it’s so important that people come forward when invited.’

The plans to reduce the dose to one follow countries such as Australia and Scotland who have already made the move to reduce HPV vaccine from two to one for those eligible.

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The doses will be offered to children in year 8 in mainstream secondary schools, and to eligible gay and bisexual men and men who have sex with men (gbMSM) under the age of 25, in sexual health clinics. Individuals who are immunosuppressed or those known to be HIV-positive will remain on a 3-dose schedule.

The HPV vaccination protects against cervical cancer, cancers of the head and neck (mouth and throat) and cancers of the anus and genital areas. The vaccine has been part of the NHS routine vaccination schedule for 12-13 year-old girls since 2008, and was rolled out to include boys of similar age in 2019.

According to Dr Vanessa Saliba, Immunisation Consultant Epidemiologist at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) the HPV vaccine programme is ‘one of the most successful in the world’ and she described the plans to reduce the HPV does from two to one as ‘good news for young people’.

However, some experts warned that by reducing the vaccine, those who have missed it will have fewer chances to protect themselves.

‘One concern is that fewer doses could reduce the opportunities that those who miss their vaccine have to get it,’ said Samantha Dixon, chief executive of Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust. ‘Ample opportunities and reminders are essential to make sure as many people as possible can have their vaccination, this includes those who do not attend school.’

The Government has said that HPV vaccines will be available for those not in mainstream school via a community clinic delivery model, but concerns remain for those without access to sufficient information and reminders about the risks of not being vaccinated.