Date Published: 23 January 2009

HPV immunisation programme starts in schools

Health News from Australia.

The new HPV immunisation programme begins in participating schools across New Zealand this term. The programme’s long term aim is to help protect girls and young women from the most common cause of cervical cancer, Human Papillomavirus (HPV).

From term 1, 2009, girls in school year 8 (approximately 12 years of age) will be offered the choice of free immunisation against the types of HPV that cause most cervical cancer.

Girls and young women aged 13 to 18 are also entitled to the free immunisation through a catch-up programme.

Written consent is required for the immunisation to be given at school. This is required from parents or guardians for girls under 16. However girls aged 16 and over may complete and sign the consent form themselves. All girls will be encouraged to speak with their parents or caregivers about the immunisation and to make an informed decision.

Nurses will be in participating schools providing information and consent forms for girls to take home.

Girls and young women who do not want to be immunised at school, or where the programme is not available through school, can receive the free immunisation from their local doctor, family planning clinic or local health provider.

Dr Greg Simmons, clinical lead for immunisation at the Ministry of Health says:

This immunisation provides our daughters with an opportunity to protect themselves against the strains of the Human Papillomavirus that causes most cervical cancer. In the long term, this programme has the potential to save about 30 lives a year in New Zealand.”

The vaccine being used in New Zealand is called Gardasil. It was shown to have an excellent safety profile in its clinical trials and has been licensed for use in over 100 countries around the world including Australia, USA, Canada and UK. Results from ongoing studies show that five years after immunisation protection remains good.

The immunisation is given as a series of three injections in the upper arm, usually over a six-month period. As with all immunisations, common reactions include pain at the injection site, redness and swelling and sometimes a raised temperature. Less commonly, dizziness or fainting has been reported.

The beginning of the school-based programme is an extension of the HPV immunisation programme which began in September 2008 when all girls born in 1990 and 1991 were able to be immunised for free at their health provider.



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