Girls denied cervical cancer jab
Schoolgirls are being denied a potentially life-saving cervical cancer jab at their schools on the grounds of religion.
Some schools in England have opted out of the HPV vaccination programme because their pupils "follow strict Christian principles" and "do not practise sex outside marriage".
The jab guards against two strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV) virus - 16 and 18 - which cause 70% of cases of cervical cancer. It is offered routinely to girls aged 12 to 13.
But an investigation by GP magazine found that 24 schools in 83 of England's 152 primary care trust (PCT) areas were opting out of the vaccination programme, many of them on religious grounds. The magazine found the majority of the schools opting out did not tell their local GPs, where the girls could be offered the vaccine.
Just two of the 15 PCTs where schools are denying the vaccination course told GPs of their decision. Only five of the 15 PCTs said they informed pupils or guardians how to obtain the vaccine elsewhere, the GP magazine figures show.
The reasons schools gave for not giving the jab included "not in keeping with the school ethos", "pupils follow strict Christian principles, marry within their own community and do not practise sex outside marriage" and "the school does not want parents/students to feel pressured by peers or the school setting".
The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) said GPs need to be informed about which pupils are being denied vaccines at school to help cut cervical cancer deaths.
A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "HPV vaccine coverage continues to rise and the UK has one of the highest rates in the world.
"In 2010/11, 84% of 12 to 13-year-old girls received all three doses of the vaccine. If schools decide not to allow HPV vaccination on their premises the local NHS to must put alternative arrangements in place for girls to get the vaccine."
Every year in the UK 1,000 women die from cervical cancer.