A PIONEERING vaccine will be given to schoolgirls as young as 12 to protect them against cervical cancer.
The jabs will be offered for the first time at all Medway schools from November.
Girls in Year 8, aged 12 and 13, will be given the vaccine first as part of a national NHS scheme targeting young women before they become sexually active.
The inoculation will then be offered to girls in other year groups in a catch-up programme during the next two years.
Most young women are expected to have their vaccination at school but for those not at school, or who have missed a dose, a vaccination at their GP’s surgery can be arranged. Girls aged 17 and 18 will also have to visit their GP to receive the jab.
Dr Alison Barnett, director of public health for Medway Primary Care Trust, said the vaccine is a major step forward in protecting young women against the disease. She said: “For the first time we are able to routinely vaccinate against cancer. I would urge all young women to make use of this major breakthrough.
“It will prevent a higher number of women developing the disease with all the associated anxiety and suffering. It is also important that all women continue to respond to invitations for cervical screening tests as the vaccine does not prevent all cervical cancers.”
NHS Medway is in the process of recruiting a new immunisation team to deliver the HPV vaccination.
In uninfected girls, the Cervarix vaccine is 99 per cent effective against the two types of Human Papillomavirus (HPV) that cause almost 75 per cent of cases of cervical cancer.
The HPV vaccine does not protect against all forms of the virus and does not replace cervical screening.
For complete immunity, girls need three doses of the vaccine during a period of six months to a year.
Information about the vaccine and consent forms will be sent to parents this autumn and the school nurse should be able to answer any questions with regards to the vaccine.