STI Vaccine for Year Eight Girls Campaign

A campaign has been launched this week enlightening parents and caregivers of Year Eight girls to the benefits of having a vaccine preventing a sexually transmitted infection which can lead to cancer.

Since 2006, New Zealand Year eight girls have been offered a free vaccine against Human Papillomavirus (HPV) but some parents and caregivers are still apprehensive.

A Northland DHB campaign, involving radio advertisements and brochures, explains that HPV is a virus that causes genital and anal warts, and certain types of cancer in both men and women. It is easy to catch as is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact as a result of normal sexual behaviour. Therefore it can be caught without having intercourse. A person only needs to have one sexual partner to be exposed to the virus and catch it.

School Based and Community Clinical Services service manager Kathryn Bowmar says, in the past, some parents and caregivers have associated the HPV vaccine with their children being sexually active and so have not consented to the vaccine being given when their child is 11-12 years old.

“One of the reasons we offer the vaccine then is because it’s before they are sexually active and research has shown they develop a good vaccine response at that age.”

However, if a girl is already sexually active it is still worthwhile as the vaccine, Gardasil, offers protection against HPV viruses.

orthland father Steve McLaren was surprised when his 11-year-old daughter came home from school with the flyer.

“I guess I was initially surprised with the whole sex scenario being mentioned  but, on reading the flyer, discovered what it was all about and realised that this vaccination is about future-proofing her health.

“I want to ensure she has the best chance for a healthy and safe future so I will be making sure she has the vaccination.”

The vaccine is given over three doses and is currently only offered free to girls from Year Eight until their 19
th birthday. There are many types of HPV. The HPV vaccine protects against the two types that cause over 70 per cent of cervical cancer and the two types of HPV that cause the majority of cases of genital warts.

ver 160,000 New Zealand girls have now been vaccinated and Auckland Sexual Health Clinics have noticed a 63 per cent drop in genital warts in young women since the vaccine was introduced.

Studies worldwide are showing 99 per cent of genital warts are being prevented, 98 per cent of cervical pre-cancers, 100 per cent of vaginal pre-cancers and 100 per cent vulva pre-cancers through vaccination. Pre-cancers are the changes that are seen on cervical smears (Pap Smear).

“Gardasil is not classed as a new vaccine as it has been available since 2006 and over 70 million worldwide have received the vaccine. There is continuous monitoring of Gardasil in New Zealand as part of routine medicine/vaccine surveillance,” says Ms Bowmar.

She adds that, although boys are not currently funded to have the vaccination in New Zealand, they can receive it at their GP with a charge.

For more information on HPV and the Gardasil vaccine, contact your Public Health Nurse, GP or the Immunisation Advisory Centre (IMAC) 0800 466 863.

It’s NOT about whether you daughter is having sex. It is:

·         about protecting your daughter before she becomes sexually active;

·         about protecting her from cervical cancer;

·         about protecting her from genital warts;

·         because her immune system is at its peak at 12 years of age and it’s free

Christina's Story

When Christina Rasmusen’s 11-year-old daughter came home with a form seeking permission to have a vaccination to prevent contracting a common STD, she couldn’t fill it out soon enough.

While other parents balked at the idea of their young daughters being associated with a sexually active disease, Christina’s memories of her own cervical cancer ordeal were enough of a reality to not think twice.

As a mother of a pre-schooler and baby, Christina was forced to face her own mortality when diagnosed with cervical cancer – caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV).  (Click here to read Christina's Story)

Christina Rasmusen with her daughter Lucy

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