Young girls are to be vaccinated against cervical cancer from next September, the government has announced.
Girls in Year 8 aged 12 to 13 will receive the injections in a programme costing up to ï¿½100m a year.
And teenagers aged between 16 and 18 will also be offered the vaccine from autumn 2009, while girls aged 15 to 17 will get the jab from the year after that.
The vaccine protects against the sexually transmitted infection human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes 70% of cases of cervical cancer and kills more than 1,000 women in the UK each year.
It will not be compulsory, and will be given in three doses over a six-month period, probably in schools.
Smear testing will need to continue after the vaccine is brought in because the jab does not protect against all types of HPV that can cause cervical cancer.
Health Secretary Alan Johnson said: "As a society we need to do more to prevent disease and not just treat it.
"Now more than ever before we need to make the NHS a service that prevents ill-health and prioritises keeping people well.
"This means a shift in focus from a sickness service to a wellbeing service."
The Department of Health will also look at whether women aged 18 to 25 should be vaccinated as well.
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Do you think the Department of Health has taken a monumental step in the fight against cervical cancer? Please leave your comments, name and address in the feedback box below. Your details will not be published if you so request. (Terms and conditions apply)
"I agree with previous comments that this is a good intervention and will save young lives. But implementation of the HPV immunisation will impact severely on the role of school nurses. This is discussed in a recent paper: Gleeson C (2009). School nurses' workloads: how should they be prioritised? Community Practitioner, 82, 1, 23-6." - Cath Gleeson, West Yorkshire
"I feel that the emphasis should still be on safer sex and fear that this will lead to complacency among young people. I am also concerned about the deaths that have occurred in the USA associated with this vaccine. Very little has been said about this" - Name and address supplied
"I think it is right to vaccinate, but think the boys should either receive the vaccine instead or as well. Girls do not get the virus unless sexually active, they get it from boys. Girls have to deal with periods, smears, most of the contraception. it is time that men took some of the responsibility. If both sexes were vaccinated, there is more chance of irradication." - Name and address supplied
"Some girls will inevitably not receive or be able to take the vaccine. So where does this leave them if boys are not vaccinated also? - R Western, Devon
"I'm glad that steps are about to be in placed in the fight against cervical cancer, however as a society we still need to highlight the importance of safer sex with our young persons" - Name and address supplied
"I am pleased at the introduction of the vaccine and that my 11 year-old daughter will receive it. Hopefully it will be part of the consent process that girls and their parents will be aware that it will not prevent other sexual infection and pregnancy. We should all be aiming to keep practising safe sex at the top of the agenda." - Name and address supplied
"I certainly agree with the shift of a sickness service to a wellbeing service. However, I am concerned that people may become complacent. Time will tell if other STIs will increase and unwanted pregnancies continue to rise. The message of practising safe sex will need to be reiterated" - Name and address supplied
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