Reluctance to give HPV vaccine criticised

The chief medical officer for MidCentral District Health Board is questioning New Zealand's reluctance to follow Australia and America's lead in offering the HPV vaccine to boys.

Dr Ken Clark said supplying the HPV vaccine to both sexes would increase protection levels among Kiwis.

"To vaccinate both males and females is a wise and sensible [choice] that would increase the chances of protecting the population and especially protecting women."

HPV, or Human Papillomavirus Virus, causes cervical and other forms of cancer, as well as genital and anal warts.

The HPV vaccine is available free to females under 21 - its introduction in 2009 was criticised by family groups.

However, a report by the Institute of Environmental Science and Research credited the vaccine with a 10 per cent decrease in cases of genital warts presented at sexual health clinics.

The vaccine is most effective if it is supplied before the recipient has become sexually active.

Health authorities in Australia and the United States have both approved and recommended HPV vaccines for males.

A Ministry of Health spokeswoman said providing the HPV vaccine free to boys had not been considered in New Zealand.

"Pharmac would be happy to review evidence and consider an application to fund the HPV vaccine for boys.

"In the meantime, parents can choose to have their son immunised against HPV if they wish. However, there would be a cost involved for them to do so."

Dr Clark, a specialist obstetrician and gynaecologist, said expanding access to the vaccine would be a "good idea" and a "tremendous opportunity" for education.

Manawatu Standard