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Time For Single Shot HPV Vaccine Schedule To Prevent Cancer In NZ

Switching to a recommended single dose schedule for the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine would save money, increase coverage, and reduce cancer in Aotearoa New Zealand.

The call to change from a two-dose vaccination programme to a single shot comes from the authors of a new Briefing from the Public Health Communication Centre.

Despite the proven effectiveness of the HPV vaccine in preventing cancer, its use in New Zealand remains insufficient.

Moving to a one-dose schedule would simplify the vaccination process, making it more appealing and accessible to youth and their parents—as well as saving costs—and ultimately increasing coverage.

The World Health Organization (WHO) now endorses a single-dose HPV vaccine schedule for individuals aged 9-20 years, a recommendation already embraced by forty countries, including Australia and the UK.

However, in New Zealand Year 8 students are still offered the HPV vaccine as two doses, six months apart. Since its introduction to the national immunisation schedule in 2008, coverage has consistently fallen short of the 75% target.

Author Dr Oz Mansoor says that switching to a single-dose schedule is a science-backed decision that aligns with global practices.

“It is a win-win-win,” he says. “Less inconvenience and injections for our tamariki, higher vaccine coverage, and less cost.”

“It is time for New Zealand to enhance its HPV immunisation strategy—with the goal of eliminating all HPV-related cancers.”

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HPV infection is common and spreads through skin-to-skin contact, including sexual contact. While most individuals clear the virus naturally, it can cause warts and, more rarely various cancers, particularly cervical cancer.

The HPV vaccine is highly effective and has a well-established safety profile, indirectly protecting even the unvaccinated by reducing virus spread.

In 2020, the World Health Assembly adopted a global strategy to eliminate cervical cancer, targeting 90% HPV vaccination coverage. Achieving this in New Zealand is crucial, say the authors, especially given recent declines in coverage, particularly among Māori and Pacific populations.

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