Manchester Evening News - - FRONT PAGE - By ALICE CACHIA [email protected]­i­tymir­ @al­ice­cachia

THOU­SANDS of teenage girls in Greater Manch­ester re­main un­pro­tected from cer­vi­cal cancer.

New fig­ures pub­lished by Public Health Eng­land show up­take of a vac­cine that gives girls pro­tec­tion from the human pa­pil­loma virus (HPV).

The virus is known to cause cer­vi­cal cancer, and is the lead­ing cause of death in women aged under 35 in the UK. Two doses are needed to give full pro­tec­tion, and girls are of­fered the first vac­ci­na­tion when they’re in Year 8.

Most stu­dents re­ceive their sec­ond dose in Year 9.

The fig­ures show 34,199 girls in Greater Manch­ester aged be­tween 12 and 14 should have had at least one dose of the vac­cine in 2018/19.

But 4,236 of those girls hadn’t – leav­ing them un­pro­tected against the virus.

That works out as a rate of more than one in ev­ery 10 girls, or 12.4 per cent.

The sec­ond dose is usu­ally of­fered six to 12 months after the first and all Year 9 girls should have had both by the end of that aca­demic year.

There were 16,786 Year 9 girls across Greater Manch­ester in 2018/19.

Nearly a fifth of those – or 2,911 – had not re­ceived both doses of the vac­cine by the end of the school year.

In Septem­ber, the HPV vac­cine was also rolled out to boys across Year 8.

This is be­cause the virus can also cause head and neck can­cers as well as pe­nile and anal cancer.

Men and women can con­tract HPV by hav­ing un­pro­tected sex with an in­fected part­ner – so vac­ci­nat­ing boys can also help pre­vent the virus from spread­ing.

Robert Mu­sic, chief executive of Jo’s Cer­vi­cal Cancer Trust, said: “It is pos­i­tive that HPV vac­cine up­take re­mains high. It is an ex­tremely ef­fec­tive vac­cine that will pre­vent many from go­ing through a cer­vi­cal cancer di­ag­no­sis, which will ul­ti­mately save lives.

“Yet we are faced with wide vari­a­tion in up­take across Eng­land mean­ing many young women will not ben­e­fit.

“There is much tar­geted work to do to close the gap, and we must look at reach­ing com­mu­ni­ties where aware­ness and up­take is par­tic­u­larly low.

“It’s im­por­tant that young peo­ple are aware that if they didn’t take up their vac­cine in­vite and are still under 25 they can still get vac­ci­nated at their GP.”

Across Eng­land there were 622,320 girls in Year 8 and 9 el­i­gi­ble for the vac­cine – but 71,937 were yet to re­ceive their first dose.

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