FEWER girls in Oxfordshire are taking up a vaccination against the potentially cancer-causing HPV virus.

Girls in England are offered the free HPV jab at school during Years 8 and 9, when they are between 12 and 14.

The latest Public Health England figures show that 89.5 per cent of girls in Oxfordshire were given the recommended two doses of the vaccine by the end of Year 9 in 2018-19.

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However this was a significant fall from the previous year, when 91.9 per cent of girls completed a full course of vaccination, but is still one of the highest rates in England.

The figures mean 417 Year 9 girls were left unprotected.

The HPV vaccination protects against the human papilloma virus, which is responsible for more than 99 per cent of cervical cancer cases as well as some other rarer cancers.

According to the NHS, the vaccine works best when girls receive it before they become sexually active.

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HPV can be spread through any kind of skin-to-skin contact, as well as through sexual intercourse.

The minimum vaccination target set by PHE for local areas is 80 per cent, but local teams are encouraged to aim for 90 per cent or above.

England has seen declining rates of HPV vaccination over recent years, falling from 86.7 per cent in 2013-14 – when girls were recommended to get both doses by the end of Year 8 – to 83.9 per cent last year.

This was a slight improvement on 2017-18, when coverage was at 83.8%, but means almost 50,000 young girls were left unprotected.