THOUSANDS of young girls are protecting themselves against cervical cancer across Wearside.
Eighty-one per cent of 12 to 13-year-old girls have now had the full course of the HPV vaccination, to protect them against the deadly disease.
Health chiefs and campaigners today welcomed the figure, which is above the national average of 79.4 per cent.
Faisal Al Durrah, consultant in public health medicine at NHS South of Tyne and Wear, which covers Sunderland Teaching Primary Care Trust, said: “We are pleased to see that so many girls are taking advantage of this vaccination, which protects against the two strains of HPV (human papillomavirus) that cause over 70 per cent of cervical cancers.”
Colin Everett, whose wife Claire Walker-Everett lost her two-year battle with cervical cancer in 2008 at 23 years old, has welcomed the news that more girls are protecting themselves against it.
“It’s good to hear that girls are taking up this opportunity,” said Colin, 29, of Washington. “And I would urge anyone to do so if it’s going to prevent them from getting cervical cancer.
“If you can protect yourself against it in any way then do it.”
In Sunderland, school nurses give the vaccinations to 12 to 13-year-olds, with GPs delivering a catch-up programme to 13 to 18-year-olds.
The catch-up scheme started in 2008/09 with 17 to 18-year-olds, and the figures reveal that among this age group, Sunderland’s take up rate for all three doses is the highest in the region, with 55.7 per cent receiving the vaccination.
Mr Al Durrah said: “Further catch-up campaigns targeting all girls aged 14 to 16 started in January 2009.
“As these catch-up campaigns started later, we are seeing lower rates of take-up amongst this age group.
“We would urge all girls who haven’t received this important vaccination to speak to their school or GP as soon as possible.”
The HPV vaccination was introduced in September 2008, for girls aged 12 to 13.
Mr Al Durrah added: “It’s also imperative that young women protect themselves in other ways.
“Unprotected sex, particularly under the age of 18, is thought to be one of the main risks in terms of developing cervical cancer so the use of condoms is strongly recommended.
“It is also still very important that all women decide to go for cervical screening from the age of 25, whether or not they’ve had the vaccine.”