08:36am Friday 20 October 2017

New Zealand lags behind Australia for HPV vaccination

HPV is the name for a group of viruses that affect your skin and the moist membrane lining your body. HPV is a common and highly contagious infection, with more than three quarters of sexually active adults acquiring it at some time in their lives.

Dr Collette Bromhead from Massey’s College of Health says that high-risk types of HPV can cause genital, oral and anal cancers in males, especially in men who have sex with men. She points out that while around 80 per cent of boys and girls in Australia receive the free HPV vaccine, only around 60 per cent of eligible New Zealand girls take up the free vaccine here. Australia, Canada, USA and the European Union have all approved the new Gardasil 9® vaccine, but it is still under consideration by MedSafe in New Zealand.

Dr Bromhead says, “The current Gardasil vaccine only protects against virus types 6,11,16 and 18 which are responsible for 90 per cent of genital warts and 70 per cent of cervical cancers. Gardasil 9® protects against a further five cancer causing HPV types, preventing approximately 90 per cent of cervical cancer, 90 per cent of HPV related anal cancer and 80 per cent of cervical pre-cancers worldwide.

“The benefit of using this vaccine in New Zealand is that women who receive it have further reduced risk of cervical cancer that screening may not be required, which would mean no more pap smears.”

The Ministry of Health recently finished its public consultation on a proposal to change the current cervical screening test from cytology to HPV testing. Dr Bromhead says, “This change is necessary as the cytology test won’t work as well in an HPV vaccinated population.

“The Ministry is also considering whether the vaccine could be delivered in two doses, compared to the three dose regime we currently use. It could save money, and mean more girls finish the vaccinations. Perhaps we could use the extra funds to get boys immunised?”

Dr Bromhead wants Pharmac to consider funding Gardasil 9® in the context of a gender neutral HPV vaccination programme for 11-13 year olds in New Zealand to bring our prevention strategy up to the same standard as Australia, Canada and the USA.

Massey University


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