New cervical cancer vaccine capacity plan announced by UK government

Image caption Simon Harris explains the government’s proposed new vaccine facility in Manchester The UK government has announced plans to more than double the capacity of a vaccine facility in Manchester to produce the…

New cervical cancer vaccine capacity plan announced by UK government

Image caption Simon Harris explains the government’s proposed new vaccine facility in Manchester

The UK government has announced plans to more than double the capacity of a vaccine facility in Manchester to produce the cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil.

Currently, the facility in Newton Heath makes 4.2m doses a year for other European countries.

The new £100m investment will double this, producing up to 8m doses a year.

A new automated production line for a second vaccine, bivalent/epiHPV, will also be built at the site.

The two vaccines will be made in a third factory being built in Liverpool, where 20 people are already employed, one year after being awarded a 10-year contract to supply to nine European countries, including the UK.

Funding for the new factory in Newton Heath comes from the government’s £200m Economic Growth Fund – which is partially repayable to any countries using the vaccine – through to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Cervical cancer killed more than 3,500 women in the UK in 2015, according to Public Health England.

Many of these cases are preventable through HPV vaccinations, but currently only two companies make vaccines to prevent the virus in the UK – two women’s groups – Merck and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).

Image copyright Reuters Image caption The original vaccine was made in the US in a way that some doctors warned was ‘unduly conservative’

“The delivery of the HPV vaccine remains a priority of the Government – and this investment is a first step towards getting even more people in the UK vaccinated,” said Business Secretary Greg Clark.

There are currently a range of differences between UK vaccines. Merck’s vaccine is only approved for girls and women. As a result, it is available only to doctors in England and most NHS trusts.

Gardasil has wider use – but with a very small pool of patients, so in England it is only offered to all girls and women aged 11 to 26.

GSK’s vaccine, bivalent/epiHPV, was first approved for girls in 2014, but then temporarily suspended in England for concerns over the precise form and the fact the dosing was changed.

Currently, its availability is subject to the next set of drug agency trials.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt wants all girls and women to be vaccinated

At the beginning of October, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt introduced proposals to use sex ed guidance to persuade every 12 to 19-year-old girl and woman to get vaccinated – and pay out any medical costs resulting from the infection.

In July, new guidelines from Public Health England was recommending that all women who have not been vaccinated should be offered two doses.

There were fears that this was unnecessarily heavy-handed and would mean that potential recipients of the vaccine would be dissuaded from taking up the offer, although the government insisted this was not the case.

Due to the popularity of this vaccine, some doctors have become concerned that GSK’s next vaccine, which will prevent both two strains of HPV – will also prove popular and could outstrip demand.

If GSK needs more capacity in Liverpool to meet this demand, it could mean that the decision to begin to offer the vaccine to older women will be put back to the next Business Secretary, to allow GSK some time to consider.

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(Video credit: Calvert on Film)

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