Health Minister Jonathan Coleman says a new awareness campaign starts today to inform parents and caregivers of Year 8 boys and girls about the benefits of HPV immunisation.
“New Zealand is joining Australia and a growing number of other countries in providing free HPV immunisation to boys as well as girls,” says Dr Coleman.
“In Budget 2016 the Government invested an extra $124 million to enable Pharmac to further increase access to new medicines. Pharmac announced last July it was widening access to HPV and chickenpox vaccinations.
“HPV-related cancers cause more than 50 deaths in New Zealand each year, and most of these are preventable.
“A growing proportion of throat cancers are caused by HPV and they affect males at higher rates than females. Immunisation protects both males and females from most cancers caused by HPV.”
HPV immunisation is available free through most schools in Year 8 as part of the school based immunisation programme. The vaccines are also available through general practices to anyone aged from 9 to 26 years.
Other changes to HPV immunisation this year include a reduction in the number of doses for those aged 9 to 14 from three doses to two, spaced at least six months apart, and an updated vaccine that protects against the types of HPV that cause around 90 per cent of related cancers.
“Recent studies show that younger teens need fewer doses of the vaccine to get good protection,” says Dr Coleman.
“Older teens and young adults who have missed out on HPV immunisation can still catch up free, as the age of eligibility has been extended to 26.”
About 65 per cent of girls who were in Year 8 in the last couple of years have been fully immunised against HPV. This has been steadily increasing in recent years – just over half of girls who were eligible for the programme when it first began have been immunised.
The awareness campaign to support HPV immunisation for boys and girls starts today and continues through February and March as school-based vaccination programmes seek consent around this time.
The campaign includes radio, online video, print and outdoor advertising.