The HPV vaccine helps to prevent the development of cervical cancer. The great news is that since the HPV vaccine programme was introduced in 2008, when it was offered to girls aged 11-13 (and also to boys since 2019), there has been a dramatic reduction in cervical cancer cases.
In fact, research published in December showed the vaccine has cut cervical cancer by nearly 90 per cent in those who choose to have the jab. Amazing stuff.
Currently, women and people with cervixes are invited for regular screenings, known as smear tests, every three to five years from the age of 25. However, clinical trials director at King’s College London, Professor Peter Sasieni, has said the vaccine has been so successful that the screening programme could be set to change, dramatically reducing the number of smear tests each person has in a lifetime.
He has proposed that between one and three checks in a lifetime is appropriate for people who have received the HPV vaccine.
‘Probably women could be screened at [age] 30 and 45, you might want to do it at 30, 40 and 55 so three times,’ he told Inside Health on BBC Radio 4.
But even more exciting is a new HPV vaccine, which Professor Sasieni says is effective enough for recipients to only need one smear test in their whole lifetime.
‘There’s a new vaccine which will be used in the UK from the next school year, which protects against even more types of the virus, and I think with that probably one screen would be enough, maybe two, over a lifetime.’
It’s really important to note that the cervical screening programme has not yet changed and the advice is still to attend all smear tests you are invited to. Here, a doctor explains why.
However, if the changes did go ahead, that would mark a dramatic shift in cervical screening processes within the space of a generation – mums would need regular checks while their daughter would only need to attend one or two smear tests in their lives.
As the first generation to receive the HPV vaccine are now being invited for their first screenings, Professor Sasieni says, ‘We really want to make those changes over the next couple of years, it is a big change [but] the vaccine has been so successful this makes perfect sense.’