HPV vaccine uptake among Knowsley girls remains well below pre-pandemic levels
Uptake of the HPV vaccine in Knowsley has still not recovered from the pandemic, new figure show.
It comes as the charity Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust said it was "disappointing" to see coverage of the life-saving vaccine continue to fall across the country.
The human papillomavirus vaccine helps protect against a range of cancers, including cervical, head and neck, anal and genital cancers, which can affect everyone.
It is offered to all 12-13 year-olds in schools and community clinics, but parents are required to give consent for their child to receive the jab from NHS nurses.
Data from the UK Health Security Agency shows 60.9% of year 9 girls in Knowsley had both HPV jabs in the 2022-23 academic year.
It means 232 of the 594 girls in the cohort were not fully vaccinated.
The jab rate was down on 69% the year before and significantly below the 89.4% coverage in 2018-19, before the pandemic.
Some girls were given the second shot in year 10 due to the impact of school closures the programme — 76% of this cohort across Knowsley had both jabs.
Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust said: "It's disappointing to see that coverage is lower than it was last year, and far lower than pre-pandemic levels."
"To achieve NHS England's target of eliminating cervical cancer by 2040, we need to make sure that children aren't missing out on this incredible vaccine," the charity added.
Across England, some 62.9% of girls in year 9 had both doses of the vaccine – a decrease of 4.4% compared to 2021-2022, and 21% lower than before the pandemic in 2018-2019.
The figures also showed coverage in males was lower than females in all cohorts for both doses of HPV.
In Knowsley, 55.5% of boys in year 9 had the full HPV vaccine.
Steve Russell, NHS England national director for vaccinations and screening, said: "The successful HPV vaccination programme already helps save thousands of lives, but through increasing uptake in young people, alongside boosting the numbers coming forward for cervical screening, the NHS in England hopes to eliminate cervical cancer by 2040.
"However, there are over 50,000 girls and over 70,000 boys in year 10 who were unvaccinated against HPV, so we’re urging parents of young people eligible for a vaccine to consent to their children getting their HPV vaccines from nurses when they visit schools."
He added the new single dose HPV vaccine – which has been rolled this current school year – will make it even easier to ensure children are fully protected.
Dr Vanessa Saliba, UKHSA consultant epidemiologist, said: "The HPV vaccination programme is one of the most successful in the world with millions of doses given since it started in 2008.
"It has dramatically lowered the rates of cervical cancer and harmful infections in both women and men – preventing many cancers and saving lives."
She added those who have missed the vaccine should contact their school nurse, school immunisation team or GP practice to arrange an appointment. They can catch up until their 25th birthday.