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Since September 2008 in the UK, immunisation against human papillomavirus (HPV) has been routinely offered to all girls aged 12–13 years as part of the childhood immunisation programme. It has been shown in previous research, that children attending schools for children and young people with intellectual disability are less likely to receive routine vaccines compared with non-disabled peers.1 Unpublished data from an audit carried out in the Portsmouth district suggests similar issues for HPV vaccination. This paper looks at what we know about HPV infection and the risks to individuals with intellectual disability, as well as why immunisation rates may be lower and what we should do about this.
Rates of HPV immunisation
There has been no research published which looks specifically at HPV vaccination rates in disabled girls and we are not aware of any routine collection of such data. A recent study from Bristol2 showed that rates in young women in non-mainstream educational settings were significantly lower than those in mainstream schools. This was a heterogeneous group, however, with schools for young people with ‘significant additional needs’ combined with pupil referral units, young offender units, hospital schools and home-educated girls.
Research in other disadvantaged groups has shown in some populations that HPV vaccination rates are significantly lower in communities with high social deprivation3 and among ethnic minority girls,2 ,3 girls of travelling families, ‘Looked after Children’, some religious groups and girls who are not in school.4
Our own local unpublished data showed uptake in girls in local schools for moderate or severe intellectual disabilities in 2010–2011 was significantly lower than that compared with girls in a local mainstream school (77% vs 93%) although socioeconomic status and ethnicity were not controlled for. Anecdotal reports from local school nurses indicate that obtaining truly informed consent for the vaccine from …