Primary care trusts are being handed up to £17m to carry out an anti-cancer immunisation programme for teenage girls two years ahead of schedule.

The Department of Health is accelerating the funding in order that 13-18 year old girls can have the jab protecting against human papillomavirus, a virus that causes cervical cancer.

Phases

The HPV vaccination has been available to 12-13 year olds since September, and the original plan was to roll it out to other age groups gradually.

Sixth-formers were to be offered the vaccine in the 2009-10 school year, followed by 15-17 year olds in 2010-11.

The decision to make the funding available now has been made in light of figures showing that 70 per cent of 12-13 year olds have already had their first of three vaccinations, with the numbers expected to rise.

In 24 areas, there has been an uptake of at least 90 per cent, while 124 PCTs are already giving girls their second dose of HPV.

Saving lives

Health minister Dawn Primarolo said: “This vaccination programme is about saving lives.
“I want to thank the local health teams, schools, girls and parents for making this programme such a success.

“Next year we'll be investing more money so trusts can bring forward their catch-up programmes to cover 13-17 year old girls.

“This means that girls can be offered protection against cervical cancer earlier.”