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50,000 women to benefit from cancer initiative

Hon Steve Chadwick
Associate Minister of Health

1 September 2008 Media Statement

50,000 women to benefit from cancer prevention initiative

From today more than 50,000 young New Zealand women can access a free cervical cancer vaccine with the launch of the first stage of the HPV (human papillomavirus) Immunisation Programme, Associate Health Minister Steve Chadwick said today.

“Many of us know someone who has been affected by cervical cancer – a friend, a neighbour, a sister or mother – and this immunisation programme is another weapon in our fight against one of the most preventable cancers,” Steve Chadwick said.

“From today, 17 and 18 year old women can simply make an appointment to see their family doctor, practice nurse or health clinic and receive the first of three, free HPV vaccinations.”

This Government will spend around $177 million on the vaccination programme over the next five years, with an ongoing cost of around $16 million per year.

“Every year, approximately 160 women in New Zealand are diagnosed with cervical cancer, and 60 women die from it. In the long term, we expect this new programme to save more than 30 lives each year, and thousands of abnormal smear results, which means less stress for those women, and their whanau.

“I encourage all eligible young women to access the Ministry of Health resources and information about the Programme and to have a discussion with their families and health professionals about the issues.

“This new cancer prevention programme comes twenty years after the Cartwright Inquiry. Our generation still recalls the horror of the 'unfortunate experiment', and we have a responsibility to remember and have these important conversations with our daughters and granddaughters about how this vaccine can protect them from cervical cancer.”

Gardasil protects against the two types of HPV that cause 70 per cent of cervical cancers. Three doses provides protection for at least five years, and studies indicate that protection is likely to last much longer.

“The vaccine was shown to be safe and effective during large clinical trials involving more than 20,000 people from 30 countries. Gardasil has been licensed for use in more than 100 countries and New Zealand joins other countries like Australia, Canada and France in publicly funding this cancer preventing vaccine.

“Cervical caner is preventable, and we should do all we can to protect our young women.”

From 2009 young women aged 12 – 18 years will be offered the vaccine, predominantly through schools. Information about the programme has been distributed to GPs and a specific HPV Immunisation Programme website is available for girls and young women (www.cervicalcancervaccine.govt.nz). For more information: www.moh.govt.nz/immunisation


ENDS

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