A new programme has been initiated to by the government to vaccinate all girls from the age 11 to 14 against cervical cancer. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation want the vaccination against human papilloma virus (HPV) to be done for secondary school first year. And there is expected to be a "catch-up" programme for those of 13 to 16.
The vaccines Gardasil and Cervarix have been developed to protect against strains of HPV that cause cervical cancer.
HPV is the extremely nasty sexually transmitted disease that causes 70% of cervical cancers - a cancer that affects approximately 3,000 women in the UK annually and causes 1,120 deaths. It is the second most frequent form of cancer among woman worldwide after breast cancer.
Some types of HPV can cause benign skin warts while high: risks HPVs are responsible for more serious diseases such as cervical cancer. This vaccine is 99% effective against the two virus strains that cause most cervical cancers. It is also effective against another pair of virus strains that cause most of the non-life threatening, but extremely unpleasant, genital warts. It could prevent about seven hundered deaths every year.
The Health Office estimates that around 70 per cent of all sexually active men and women are infected with a form of HPV once in their lives, with the highest risk among men and women between the ages of 16 and 25.
Some senior doctors warn that hundreds of women will die of cervical cancer because government advisers have delayed a decision to introduce the vaccination programme. Cancer specialists yesterday criticised the committee of advisers for taking a year to reach their decision, and said 300,000 girls would face a greater risk of developing cervical cancer as a result.
But there are many who are not in agreement with the new programme of the government. Some parents and religious groups say the vaccine could encourage girls to have unprotected sex. The ethical and religious groups oppose the scheme and believe girls should be taught to abstain from sex rather than go in for the vaccine.
Colin Hart, the director of the Christian Institute charity, said: "It's basically a sex jab, encouraging the view that girls can be sexually available. It is a disease that you can only get through being sexually promiscuous. The thing we should be doing is trying to stop kids being sexually active."
A spokesman for the Catholic Church has said that any vaccination programme should be supported by the promotion of "sex within marriage" and that "the promotion of marriage should remain the number one social policy priority.
There are already quite a few people who are keen to see their children immunised. As a former nurse practitioner and the chief executive of a private primary healthcare group, for example, Sarah Dean is intent on using every tool at her disposal to protect her five children's health. Some feel that "it's a good idea, they're going to have sex some day anyway and it's better to prevent than cure".
Although men are just as likely to be infected as women, it is not yet known if the vaccine is effective on them.