The UK government has announced that from next September, it will switch to using Sanofi Pasteur MSD's Gardasil instead of GlaxoSmithKline's Cervarix for its human papillomavirus vaccination programme.

The Department of Health says the decision to switch was made following "a competitive tendering exercise". The HPV programme began in September 2008 and there was much criticism when Cervarix was chosen ahead of Gardasil, with many observers saying the former was selected purely in terms of cost.

Furthermore, while both vaccines are 70% effective against HPV strains 16 and 18, Gardasil also protects against two other strains (HPV types 6 and 11) that cause 90% of genital warts.

David Salisbury, the UK government’s director of immunisation, said "it’s not unusual for the NHS to change vaccines or other medicines – it can happen following competitive tendering exercises or when new research findings come to light". He added that "we have one of the best HPV vaccination programmes in the world and we want that success to continue".

GSK did not bid for the contract this time because the criteria for the tender changed, with the government looking more towards protection against genital warts.