HPV vaccine prevents 90% of cervical cancer cases – and could eradicate killer disease ‘in our lifetime’

THE HPV jab is cutting cases of cervical cancer by 90 per cent, a new study has found.

Scientists say the disease, which killed Big Brother star Jade Goody when she was just 27, could be eradicated “in our lifetime” thanks to the jabs.

GettyThe HPV vaccine is saving lives since its rollout in 2008[/caption]

The study, led by Queen Mary University of London, adds to previous evidence that suggested the jab is most effective when taken in a year 8.

It also found that the vaccine works similarly well across the socio-economic spectrum, with most cases being prevented in more deprived groups.

Until now, there have been concerns that the HPV jab could have an unequal impact across society, meaning it misses out on those in deprived groups where the disease is most prevalent.

Cancer Research UK’s Michelle Mitchell said: “Today’s news is promising – the HPV vaccination programme is paving the way to make cervical cancer a rare disease for all.”

The jabs, which have been given to teenage girls since 2008, protect against high-risk strains of human papillomavirus, which spreads during sex and causes 99 per cent of cervical cancers.

In the UK, the elimination of cervical cancer as a public health problem in our lifetime is possible with continued action to improve access to vaccination and screening for all

Professor Peter SasieniQueen Mary University of London,

The study, published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), looked at incidences of cervical cancer in more than 650,000 women who had received the jab between the ages of 12 and 18.

It found that women in their 20s who got the jab aged 12 or 13 were 90 per cent less likely to get cervical cancer than unvaccinated women.

Meanwhile, women who received catch-up vaccines between the ages of 14 and 18 cut their risk by as low as 30 per cent.

When researchers compared the effectiveness of the jab among socio-economic groups, they found it prevented an estimated 190 cases of the disease in the most deprived group and 60 in the most affluent.

Professor Peter Sasieni, lead author, said: “Our research highlights the power of HPV vaccination to benefit people across all social groups.  

“Historically, cervical cancer has had greater health inequalities than almost any other cancer, and there was concern that HPV vaccination may not reach those at greatest risk.

“Instead, this study captures the huge success of the school-based vaccination programme in helping to close these gaps and reach people from even the most deprived communities.  

“In the UK, the elimination of cervical cancer as a public health problem in our lifetime is possible with continued action to improve access to vaccination and screening for all.”

There are more than 3,000 cervical cancer cases per year but NHS England has pledged to wipe out the tumours for good by 2040 – by blocking the virus.


Coverage of the HPV vaccine dropped last year, with 16.8 per cent of girls and 21.4 per cent of boys not immunised by the end of school Year 10.

In 2022, the proportion of unprotected was 13.5 per cent for girls and 18.5 per cent for boys.

The HPV vaccine can also prevent cancers of the throat, neck, head, penis, vagina and anus, which may all be caused by HPV.

There are dozens of HPV types, and they are very common, with more than eight in 10 people contracting at least one in their lifetime.

Most are harmless, but some contribute to cancer, while others can cause warts.

Everything you need to know about the HPV vaccine

The HPV vaccine protects against some of the risky HPV types that can lead to genital warts and cancer.

Gardasil has been the HPV vaccine used in the NHS vaccination programme since 2012. It is protective against nine types of HPV. 

For example it is effective against types 16 and 18 which cause around 80 per cent of cervical cancers in the UK.

That’s why it is important for people who have a cervix to still get a smear test when invited by the NHS.

Cervical cancer takes the lives of 854 people a year currently – but this is expected to continue decreasing thanks to the vaccine. 

There are around 3,200 new cases of the devastating cancer a year, with peak incidence in women in their early 30s.  

But the HPV vaccine doesn’t just prevent cervical cancer – it stops some anal, genital (vaginal and penile), mouth and throat (head and neck) cancers. 

These affect both men and women. 

Who should take it?

The first dose of the HPV vaccine is routinely offered to girls and boys aged 12 and 13 in school Year 8. 

The second dose is offered 6 to 24 months after the 1st dose.

If a school child misses their doses, you can speak to the school jab team or GP surgery to book as soon as possible.

Anyone who missed their jab can get it up to their 25th birthday.

But people who have the first dose of the HPV vaccine at 15 years of age or above will need to have three doses of the vaccine because they do not respond as well to two doses as younger people do.

The HPV vaccine used to only be given to girls who are at risk of cervical cancer when they are older.

But in 2018, it was announced that boys – who can get HPV-related cancers of the head, nech, anal and genitals – would also be given a jab.

Girls indirectly protect boys against HPV related cancers and genital warts because girls will not pass HPV on to them.

But the programme was extended to further eliminate risk of the virus spreading in the future. 

Men who have sex with men (gay and bisexual) do not benefit from this indirect protection, and so are also able to get the HPV vaccine up to the age of 45.

Some transgender people can also get the vaccine. 

Those assigned female at birth would have gotten one as a child. But those assigned male at birth could get a jab if they transition to female and have sex with men.

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