Firstly I wish to thank Dr Roberts and Helen Petousis-Harris from Ministry of Health and Immunisation Advisory Centre respectively for their replies to my letter (July 16) in which I raised concerns over the HPV vaccination programme being implemented next month.
Open discussion from all sides is what’s needed so parents can make an informed decision.  Due to discussions brought about by my letter I have since discovered via the medical fraternity that no studies or testing have or are being carried out on New Zealand women to ascertain which HPV viruses are present or most common here. As this vaccine was researched and developed in America I am amazed that the government is spending $180 million without first establishing that New Zealand women mirror the American studies. When implementing the meningococcal vaccination programme it had been established our strain was unique to New Zealand.  Perhaps the same may or may not be the case with HPV viruses.

In their letters Dr Roberts and Helen Petousis-Harris give their views and their facts and are quick to discredit my information.  However my overall point was for reflection on whether this vaccination programme is worth the $180 million being spent on the very small percentage of women who will supposedly contract cervical cancer from having HPV present.  That the pap smear programme works well in combating this disease and  perhaps $180 million could be better spent in some other area of the health sector with a far better return.  $180 million would go a long way in funding the breast cancer drug Herceptin which women fighting breast cancer have been desperately requesting.
 Ultimately though I wanted to make an informed decision on whether to vaccinate my daughter with this vaccine and by doing some research and helping to create these discussions I feel I’ve achieved this.


I would like to make three points in reference to J Smith's letter of July 26 regarding the Gardasil HPV Vaccine.

1.  Most cervical cancer is caused by two of the four types of HPV represented in the Gardasil vaccine.  The rates of cervical cancer in New Zealand are well known, therefore the potential impact of the vaccine is straightforward to estimate.  HPV viruses are extremely common wherever in the world people are having sex.

2.  Before the Government commits limited resources to a new vaccine a cost evaluation is carried out.  Careful use of money is always high on public health agendas so before spending money on introducing a new vaccine, there must be evidence of cost-effectiveness.

3.  The clinical trials for this vaccine were not only carried out in America as the author suggests.  There were 22 countries with ethnically diverse populations participating in these trials.  This includes New Zealand women from Auckland and Christchurch.

Helen Petousis-Harris
Immunisation Advisory Centre