Rise in girls opting for HPV vaccination

There is an increase in teenage girls opting for the HPV vaccination across South Canterbury, with Ministry of Health figures showing 51 per cent of eligible girls born in 2001 have received the vaccine.

That figure is up on previous years, however, it is down on the 2001 national total of 58 per cent.

Of those girls born in 2000, 49 per cent had received it and in 1999 48 per cent had.

The vaccine is designed to protect girls against the human papilloma virus (HPV), which can lead to genital warts and cervical cancer.

All girls who are in year 8 at school are offered the vaccine either through a school-based immunisation programme or through their family doctor if a school programme is unavailable.

Karen Page, a PhD candidate at the Centre for Public Health Research at Massey University, is conducting a survey investigating knowledge, attitudes and issues around the HPV vaccination.

"The uptake rate for this vaccination, which protects against cervical cancer and some other cancers and conditions, is poor, at under 60 per cent, compared to around 90 per cent for most other childhood vaccinations," Page said.

The HPV immunisation is free for girls and young women up to their 20th birthday. Women over the age of 20 can still have the vaccine, but they will have to pay for it.

The HPV immunisation programme started in New Zealand on September 1, 2008, and involves three doses by injection, usually spread over six months.

About 150 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and 50 women die from it each year in New Zealand.

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Parents and caregivers of boys and girls aged 9 to 23 years, are invited to participate in the Massey University survey. Surveys are anonymous and can be accessed at surveymonkey.com or by requesting a hard copy by calling 04 979 3106.

 - The Timaru Herald

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