South Canterbury women aged 17 and 18 will be able to be immunised against genital warts from next Monday.  The Government's HPV (genital warts) Immunisation Programme will be launched with free vaccinations for women born in 1990 and 1991.  Next year, the second phase of the immunisation programme will begin for girls aged 12 to 17 (born 1992 onwards) to protect against the virus which causes most cervical cancers, with vaccinations of this age group to be carried out by South Canterbury District Health Board's public health nurses.

Girls under 16 years of age will need written parental consent to receive the HPV vaccine at school.  The vaccination is expected to save 30 lives a year by preventing Human Papillomavirus, which is thought to cause cervical cancer.  However, according to the Ministry of Health's annual surveillance report of sexually transmitted infections, 90 per cent of genital warts detected were not linked to causing cancer.  The same report showed that of the 732 people that were tested in South Canterbuy last year at the family planning clinic and the Timaru Hospital Sexual Health Clinic, 45 had genital warts and out of 685 tested in 2006, 45 had genital warts.  Genital warts was most common in men aged between 20 and 24 and women aged 15 to 19.  The data was given voluntarily by the sexual health clinics and family planning and did not include statistics from general practitioners.

 

 South Canterbury's Medical Officer of Health, Dr Daniel Williams, said the vaccine provided protection for young women against cervical cancer.  "This programme provides an opportunity for young women to be protected against the virus that causes most cervical cancers.  It is an investment in protecting future generations.  In the long term, it is expected that about 30 lives a year will be saved nationwide."  The Gardasil vaccine which is used was shown to be safe in large clinical trials involving more than 20,000 girls and young women he said.  "Results from the ongoing studies show that five years after vaccination, protection remains good, and the vaccine prevented infection with HPV in 96 per cent of women.  These studies will continue to monitor the long term protection, but at this stage international experts do not expect that a booster dose will be needed."

Young women who complete the three-dose course will still need cervical smear tests when they get older, as the vaccine does not protect against all of the causes of cervical cancer.  Herald Staff


REPLY TO ABOVE ARTICLE

LETTER TO EDITOR - TIMARU HERALD - 2008-09-02

South Canterbury's medical officer of health, Dr Daniel Williams, made some interesting statements concerning the Gardasil vaccine (August 27).

1.  The vaccine provided protection for young women against cervical cancer.

2.  Results from the ongoing studies show that five years after vaccination protection remains good and at this stage international experts do not expect that a booster dose will be needed.

3.  The Gardasil vaccine was shown to be safe in large clinical trials involving 20,000 girls and young women.

Professor Diane Harper, who designed and conducted the clinical trials for this vaccine on behalf of drug company Merk, did not speak with such confidence as Dr Williams in her interview on National Radio on August 01 2008 (www.radionz.co.nz - audio search - Gardasil).  She stated that mothers and daughters are being told that by having this vaccine they are one less who will get cervical cancer.  She said this is simply not true, that this vaccine has only been shown to protect women against two types of HPV virus with links to cervical cancer.

She also conveyed concerns over the length of protection the vaccine provided and stated that at present five years' immunity was all that could be confirmed as immunity had been shown waning after this time and it was highly likely that recipients would require booster shots in the future.

Prof. Harper stated that in her trials of 17,000 girls and women none were conducted on girls aged under 15.  Other concerns she raised were that Merck had embarked on a very aggressive marketing campaign with Gardasil and that too many girls were being vaccinated too quickly, without waiting to see what long-term results and risks would present in the general population.  Many adverse reactions have occurred from this vaccine due to the millions of doses being rolled out and she said this is something parents should be aware of.

Her advice was if your daughter is in the 12-14 year bracket, it could be wise to wait four years until more data was gained on the effects of this vaccine.  There is no advantage, in her view, to getting vaccinated at this young age versus 18 years.  Prof Harper has publicly stated that this Gardasil vaccine is a great big public health experiment.

I believe our young girls are being used as guinea pigs and sold out by our government and health officils who are puppets of the marketing machine for this cash strapped drug company.

J Smith

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