Girls as young as 11 should receive compulsory vaccinations against a sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer, according to an influential medical journal.
The Lancet published an editorial calling for compulsory jabs for 11- and 12-year-olds despite fears that they could encourage under-age sex.
The Sunday Telegraph revealed last month that ministers have commissioned secret research into parental attitudes towards a concerted vaccination programme in primary schools.
Last week the European Commission gave the go-ahead for the anti-cancer vaccine Gardasil to be used in EU member states.
The licence allows the vaccine to be given to children aged nine to 15, and women aged 16 to 26.
Gardasil offers protection against human papillomavirus (HPV), a virus spread by sexual intercourse that can trigger cervical cancer.
About 3,000 cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed in women in Britain each year, more than a third of which are fatal. The majority result from infection by HPV.
The Lancet said Europe should take its lead from the US state of Michigan, which passed a bill on Sept 21 ruling that all 11 to 12-year-old girls must be immunised.
The journal said there was growing support for the vaccination of both boys and girls, since men can carry HPV.
Studies have shown that female-only vaccination would be only 60-75 per cent as effective at reducing HPV prevalence in women as strategies targeting both sexes.