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FPA Welcomes PM’s Cervical Cancer Vaccine Call

FPA Welcomes PM’s Cervical Cancer Vaccine Call

6 October, 2007

A call by the Prime Minister for the Ministry of Health to investigate fast-tracking the introduction of the vaccine against cervical cancer has been welcomed by the Family Planning Association which has been advocating for the introduction of the vaccine.

FPA National Medical Advisor Dr Christine Roke says she was heartened by Prime Minister Helen Clark’s call at the weekend for the Ministry of Health to “make haste” on advising the Government on recent international developments with the vaccine.

“Every year New Zealand doesn’t have the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine available as part of the routine immunisation programme, another group of young women become sexually active and are potentially infected with HPV – the virus responsible for cervical cancer,” Dr Roke says.

“Women become infected with the HPV virus very early in their sex lives. The value of the Gardisil vaccination is to provide women with long term protection against a disease which claims the lives of around 66 New Zealand women each year and causes distress and significant medical intervention for hundreds of others. With Gardisil, we know we have a tool to not just fight this disease – but to prevent it occurring at all in a significant number of women.”

Gardisil immunises against the two main strains of the sexually transmitted HPV types which are responsible for 70 per cent of cervical cancers. New Zealand has a high incidence of HPV and our young women are becoming sexually active earlier. With this vaccine we have the potential to prevent 100 per cent of the cancers caused by HPV types 16 and 18 – the types that cause 70 per cent of cervical cancers and 100 per cent of the types 6 and 11 that cause 90 per cent of genital warts. Best results are achieved by vaccinating young women before they become sexually active.

FPA Chief Executive Jackie Edmond says criticism of the Prime Minister’s announcement comes from groups whose views are shaped by a moral conviction rather than considering the internationally-recognised science in support of the vaccine.

“The vaccine is a preventative – it works exactly the same as any other vaccine. The reality is that we have a vaccine that can prevent cancer – if there was a vaccine that had this efficacy for other cancers, we would not be having this debate. The fact that the virus responsible for this cancer is usually sexually transmitted, should not be allowed to cloud this medical breakthrough,” Ms Edmond says.

“FPA’s overriding concern is that parents and caregivers understand that this vaccine can protect their young women against a significant and life-threatening disease.

“The vaccine is a medical response to a medical issue – as a developed country, New Zealand should be using every resource it has to keep its young people safe.”

ENDS

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