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The UK’s leading cervical cancer charity claims the East Midlands has a ‘worryingly’ low level of young girls being vaccinated against the disease.
It comes as Cervical Cancer Prevention week begins.
Latest figures show 52.9% of 12 and 13 year old girls in the region are getting the HPV jab. That compares to an average of 64.9% nationally, putting the East Midlands among the lowest in the country.
Director of Jo's Trust Robert Music says:
"Absolutely I think it's worrying".
"We've got to find a way of getting awareness of the importance of this vaccine and to try find ways to encourage girls from the age of 12 to 18 to actually have the vaccine".
"Today, three women will have died from cervical cancer, and about another eight will have been diagnosed with an uncertain future, but we're talking about something that's quite rare with cancers - it's a largely preventable disease".
The charity says one of the reasons for the low numbers is parents being worried about the death of a 14-year-old from Coventry last year, who had just had the vaccine. That is despite it since being proved an unknown heart condition was to blame and not the jab.
"There's been some reaction as a result of the death of Natalie Morton. We need to try and reach parents who have concerns about the vaccine and their daughters having it".
NHS Leicestershire’s Deputy Director of Public Health, Dr Tim Davies, told Heart he doesn't expect the take up rate to be affected long term:
"It may have had an effect at the time and we certainly suspended the programme for a day or two, but the evidence was very clear - the unfortunate death was nothing to do with the programme".
"It was an unrelated episode - clearly a very tragic one - but I'd be quite surprised if that particular episode had an effect as we move forward".
And for parents worried about letting their daughters have the HPV jab, Jo's Trust Director Mr Music has some simple advice:
"There was a huge amount of research undertaken into the vaccine before the programme was put in place. 1.4 million doses of the vaccine have been given. The majority of side-effects were standard with vaccinations - a painful, red arm that may hurt for a couple of days afterwards".
"What we're talking about here is a vaccine that could potentially reduce 70% of all cervical cancers over the next few years and that's why for us it's so, so important".
Cervical cancer links:
Cancer Research UK - Symptoms, tests, treatments and what to ask
Jo's Trust - The UK's only dedicated cervical cancer charity
Macmillan Cancer Support - Treatments, side-effects and further support
NHS - Offical advice and information
Healthtalkonline - Read and hear real life stories