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Medsafe approves use of cervical cancer vaccine

20 July 2006

Medsafe approves use of cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil

Medsafe has approved the use of a vaccine against human papilloma virus (HPV) which can lead to cervical cancer.

Cervical cancer is caused by human papilloma virus (HPV), a common, sexually transmitted infection. There are many types of HPV and only a few "high risk" types can lead to abnormal precancerous cells.

Gardasil is a vaccine covering the four types of HPV including types 16 and 18 HPV, the most common "high risk" HPV types associated with cervical cancer. Infection with these two types accounting for between 50 and 70 per cent of "high risk" infections.

However, all women who have been sexually active will continue to need to have regular cervical smears, whether they are vaccinated or not.. This is because the vaccine only protects against two types of HPV associated with cervical cancer and it is unknown at this stage how long protection will last. Booster does may be required in the future.

The Ministry of Health's National Immunisation Programme's Immunisation Technical Working Group provides recommendations and advice on the use of vaccines in New Zealand to be included in the National Immunisation Schedule. The next schedule change is likely to be in 2008. The Immunisation Technical Working Group will reconvene in early August to begin reviewing the schedule.

Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable of all cancers. A woman's best protection against developing cervical cancer is having regular cervical smear tests, between the ages of 20 and 69 years, which can reduce her risk of developing cervical cancer by 90 percent.

Background Information -

The Medicines Assessment Advisory Committee recommended that Gardasil be approved under Section 21 of the Medicines Act 1981 for the following indications -

* Gardasil is indicated in females aged 9 to 26 years for the prevention of cervical, vulva and vaginal cancer, precancerous or dysplastic lesions, genital warts and infection caused by Human Papillomavirus (HPV) types 6, 11, 16 and 18 (which are included in the vaccine.) * Gardasil is indicated in males 9 to 15 years for the prevention of infection caused by Human Papillomavirus (HPV) types 6, 11, 16 and 18.

Types 6 and 11 are for protection against the visible external genital warts, which don't cause cervical cancer.

The sponsor company for Gardasil is Merck Sharp & Dohme New Zealand.


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