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IMAC Supports Funding of Vaccine for Young Women

Media Release May 2 2008

IMAC Supports Funding of Vaccine for Young Women

Immunisation Advisory Centre supports the announcement that the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination will be offered for free to young women

Dr Nikki Turner says "this is an important new vaccine that is expected to have significant impact on reducing cervical cancer. It has already been introduced to many Western countries including Australia, the UK, the USA, and Canada. This is a hugely positive step for young women in New Zealand."

HPV viruses are sexually transmitted viruses, part of the wart virus family, and lead to a range of genital cancers and genital warts.

"HPV infection is extremely common in all sexually active women. Three years after becoming sexually active, around two thirds of women have been exposed to HPV virus, regardless of their number of sexual partners," says Dr Turner. "While 98% of infections resolve without any problems, about 2% are still present after 5 years. Persistent on-going infection over 10 years or more can lead to cancer".

If undetected and untreated HPV can lead to cervical cancer and other cancers affecting the vulva, vagina, anus, penis, or oropharynx.

Untreated cervical cancer is ultimately fatal. Every year 180 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer, and around 60 die from the disease.

Immunisation with the HPV Vaccine is highly effective in preventing infection with the two most common HPV types 16 and 18. These two types cause at least 70% of cervical cancer.

The vaccine will be available for free to more than 300,000 young women aged 12 to 18 and the programme is expected to save around 30 lives each year. It will complement the existing screening programme.


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