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The National HPV Immunisation Programme

Press release

Thursday August 28 2008

The National HPV Immunisation Programme

“One of the most significant steps forward for cancer prevention in New Zealand”

Professor Ron Jones, Chairman of the HPV Professional Advisory Board, believes that the introduction of the National HPV Immunisation Programme on September 1 2008 will be one of most important advancements for the prevention of cancer for over half a century in New Zealand.

HPV (Human Papillomavirus) causes cervical cancer, which takes the life of 65 women in this country annually. Tens of thousands of other women are also faced with the worry and disruption of having an abnormal smear or colposcopy.

“Over 50 years ago the cervical smear test was introduced, which should be applauded for the immensely positive impact it had, and will continue to have, on women’s health in New Zealand,” said Professor Jones.

However, 80 per cent of the women developing cervical cancer today have not had regular smear tests. 30,000 women are faced with the distress of having an abnormal test result and 180 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer per annum.

“The National HPV Immunisation Programme will work hand in hand with cervical smear testing to ensure that lives are saved through prevention as well as detection and cure.

“This really is one of the most significant steps forward for cancer prevention in New Zealand,” said Professor Jones.

It is estimated that about half of all women have an HPV infection within five years of becoming sexually active and three-quarters of all women have an HPV infection at some time in their lives.

While the vaccine provides protection to younger women who have already had sex, to be completely effective the vaccine needs to be administered before a girl becomes sexually active.

“The ethical question is not whether it is right to vaccinate girls against a cancer that can be spread by sexual contact - it is how best we can protect the lives of New Zealand’s women. To my mind, the National HPV Immunisation Programme is the obvious answer,” said Professor Jones.

Professor Jones also noted that the vaccine being used in the programme was the world’s most tested vaccines.

“There should be no concerns relating to the efficacy and safety of GARDASIL. In fact, Medsafe fast-tracked the registration of the vaccine for use in this country because the results of international clinical trials were so impressive.”


ENDS

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