Urgent call on parents to make sure their teens get life-saving cancer jab – is your child eligible? | The Sun

PARENTS are being urged to make sure their teenagers have received a life-saving cancer jab, after coverage plummeted during the pandemic.

Two doses of HPV vaccine is offered to all 12 and 13-year-olds in school years 8 and 9.

The jab helps prevent a range of cancers, such as cervical cancer, cancers of the head and neck (mouth and throat), and cancers of the anus and genital areas.

However, the latest Government data suggests coverage of the HPV vaccine fell by seven per cent from 2021 to 2022 compared to the previous academic year.

The charity Oral Health Foundation fears many teens who didn't get the jab could be at higher risk of the disease.

Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the charity, said: "The pandemic led to mass disruption for school vaccination programmes, so please check that your child is up to date and received their HPV dose.

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"If you are not sure, or if you think they missed out, please contact their school.

"It's a life-saving vaccination, and they must be protected."

Sexually-transmitted virus is leading cause of cancers

HPV is linked to five per cent of all cancers and is a leading cause of mouth cancer and cervical cancer.

The disease is sexually transmitted, but – because it does not tend to cause symptoms or problems – most people do not even know they have it.

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There are about 200 different strains of HPV, most of which are harmless and resolve on their own.

But two strains – HPV16 and HPV18 – can trigger various types of cancer including genital, cervical, head, neck, throat and mouth cancer.

Dr Nigel added: "HPV is a leading cause of mouth cancer, a disease which has seen the number of cases double over the last generation.

"The best form of protection against HPV is the vaccination, which, to be effective, should happen before a person becomes sexually active."

Is your child eligible for life-saving jab?

Girls have been offered the jab since 2008, while boys were added to the programme in 2019 in the hope that HPV-related cancer cases would fall dramatically in the future.

New data collected by the Oral Health Foundation and Portman-Dentex suggests that awareness and confidence around the HPV vaccine in the UK are improving.

Around one in five (19 per cent) adults now know HPV is a cause of mouth cancer.

And one in four (24 per cent) understand that the virus is passed on during sexual activity.

Awareness of HPV and its relationship to mouth cancer has almost doubled over recent years.

The study involving 2,000 people also shows that confidence in the HPV vaccine has improved by around 20 per cent in the last year alone.

Catherine Tannahill, a dentist at Portman-Dentex, said: "The vaccine programme has been running into the UK for 15 years.

"It has potentially saved millions of lives, and there's a wealth of robust evidence of its effectiveness in protecting a person from HPV-related cancers and diseases.

"I have seen the devastating effect that HPV mouth cancer has on a person's life, so I would encourage all parents to make sure their child is vaccinated."

Rachel Parsons, a mother from Coventry, was diagnosed with suspected HPV mouth cancer after noticing a lump in her mouth.

All her children have since received the HPV vaccination.

Rachel says: "I wanted my boy vaccinated so he would have the same protection. I didn't want any of them to go through what I did.

"It's not about sleeping with a lot of people; HPV can stay dormant for years. You must explain what it really is. 

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"Young people can be more vulnerable, but it's not always contracted through sex by being promiscuous.

"The HPV vaccine is important. If anyone can get it, they should go for it. No one should go through what I did."

What to do if you child missed the jab

The HPV vaccine programme is offered to all children in school Year 8, when they are aged 12 to 13.

If you missed getting vaccinated when you were 12 or 13, the HPV vaccine is available for free on the NHS for:

  • all girls under 25
  • boys born after 1 September 2006

Contact your school nurse, school vaccination team or GP surgery if you or your child were eligible for the HPV vaccine but did not get vaccinated.

Source: NHS

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