HPV VACCINE uptake in Oxfordshire has fallen significantly from pre-pandemic levels, new figures show.

Jo's Cervical Cancer trust said the decline in uptake must be ‘reversed quickly’ so progress in decreasing instances of cancer caused by HPV is not lost.

Girls in England are offered free HPV jabs at school during years 8 and 9, when they are aged between 12 and 14.

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Data from the UK Health Security Agency shows 76.9 per cent of year 9 girls in Oxfordshire had both HPV jabs in the 2021-22 academic year.

It means 1,043 of the 4,506 girls in the cohort were not fully vaccinated.

The jab rate was down from 83.8 per cent the year previous and below pre-pandemic levels in 2018-19 when uptake was at 89.5 per cent.

Some girls were given the second shot in year 10 due to the impact of school closures the programme — 84 per cent of this cohort across Oxfordshire had both jabs.

The HPV vaccination protects against the human papilloma virus, which is responsible for most cervical cancer cases, as well as some other rarer cancers.

Samantha Dixon, Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust chief executive, said cases of cervical cancer have fallen 87 per cent in vaccinated women, so progress cannot be lost.

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"More education about the HPV vaccine, and how it can protect against cervical cancer, could help reduce vaccine hesitancy and tackle barriers to uptake," Ms Dixon said.

"The HPV vaccine - combined with cervical screening - gives us the opportunity to prevent many cases of cervical cancer and save many lives."

Across the country, about 67.3 per cent of year 9 girls were fully vaccinated last year – a drop from the level seen three years before, when 83.9 per cent had both shots.

North Somerset had the lowest level of coverage with just 17.7 per cent of year 9 girls fully vaccinated, while Stockport had the highest level at 91.6 per cent.

Dr Vanessa Saliba, consultant epidemiologist at the UKHSA said: "In recent years we have seen vaccine coverage fall due to the challenges posed by the pandemic.

"Many young people who missed out on their vaccinations have already been caught up, but more needs to be done to ensure all those eligible are vaccinated."

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Ms Saliba added that children and young people who missed out on the vaccine should contact their school nurse, school immunisation team or GP to arrange getting the shots.

People are eligible for the jabs up until their 25th birthday. “The vaccine works and will save lives," Ms Saliba said.