June 27, 2008, Press Dispensary. The Royal Society of Health (RSH – http://www.rsph.org (http://www.rsph.org) ) welcomes the decision to introduce a national HPV vaccination programme, but with reservations. The Department of Health has decided to use ‘Cervarix’, one of two HPV vaccines on the market. In response, Professor Richard Parish, RSH chief executive, comments:
“The health benefits of vaccination will be considerable, but they could have been much greater. Not everyday is there an opportunity to drastically reduce the second most common sexually transmitted infection in the UK and also make an impact on the long term financial costs to the NHS.”
Professor Parish continues: “The most significant cost in delivering the vaccine will be the investment in staff time, transport, storage, and facilities. When faced with a choice of two vaccines, logic would suggest that we aim for the greatest public health outcome possible. Unlike the competitor product, ‘Gardasil’, ‘Cervarix’ does not protect against genital warts. In this sense, the Government’s decision is a ‘missed opportunity’.”
To minimise further lost opportunities, the Society urges the Department of Health to extend NHS provision to young women up to and into their twenties. Consideration should also be given to vaccinating boys. This would enhance the population benefits of HPV vaccination and potentially protect boys from other HPV related cancers.
The failure to maximise the health gains from HPV vaccination could also increase inequalities in health. Families with the resources to do so may choose ‘Gardasil’ for the added protection provided against genital warts. Those on low income will not have such a choice.
With more than four million people affected by genital warts in the UK, this is the most commonly seen sexually transmitted disease in GUM clinics. Voicing the concerns of many in the public health community, RSH chair, Dr. Selwyn Hodge said:
“This could be yet another example of the growing health divide within the UK. Individuals who can afford to go privately will be able to get protection against genital warts as well as cervical cancer. Those who cannot will remain unprotected against an avoidable and widespread condition.”
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Notes for editors
1. The Royal Society of Health (RSH) will be merging with the Royal Institute of Public Health (RIPH) shortly to become the Royal Society for Public Health.
2. The new organisation has recently been granted a Royal Charter .
3. The RSH is managing a national HPV education programme funded through an educational grant from SPMSD.
4. A Learning Resource for schools about HPV and cervical cancer is under development by the RSH and will be published shortly
For further information, please contact:
Richard Parish, chief executive
The Royal Society of Health
Tel: 07713 255972
Published for The Royal Society of Health by Press Dispensary