The Ministry of Health and Pharmac have announced changes regarding the human papillomavirus (HPV) immunisation in New Zealand next year. From January 2017, the HPV vaccine will be funded for males and females up to the age of 26 – previously the vaccine was only funded for females up to age 20.There have been repeated calls from the sector to extend the coverage of the vaccination to males. The reasons for these calls include:
- the vaccine also provides protection against genital warts for both males and females;
- the vaccine also provides protection against cancers apart from cervical cancer, such as anal and throat cancer;
- vaccination of males and females relieves some of the burden on women to prevent cervical cancer.
Choosing to undergo any health procedure, including the HPV vaccination/Gardasil, is your decision. Women’s Health Action will continue to emphasise the importance of informed consent, so that consumers are able to access detailed information on the risks and benefits of the vaccine, and are not subject to any form of pressure or coercion.In a letter from Dr Stewart Jessamine, the Ministry of Health have outlined some of the changes which will be coming into effect – see below:
Changes from 2017 – expansion of eligibility
From 1 January 2017, PHARMAC will extend eligibility for HPV vaccine to include boys and young men aged 9 to 26 years. While the initial efforts of the HPV immunisation programme focused on cervical cancer prevention for women, increasing evidence has emerged in recent years of the impact of other HPV-related cancers on men. Boys will be included in the existing school-based immunisation programme at Year 8, and will also be able to access the vaccine free through their general practice.
An updated vaccine
The existing Gardasil vaccine protects against four types of HPV. From 2017 it will be replaced with an updated version, Gardasil 9, which protects against nine types of HPV. The five additional types will mean that HPV immunisation will protect against about 90 percent of cervical cancers, as well as other HPV-related cancers. It will continue to protect against genital warts.
Reduction from three doses to two doses
Currently, Gardasil vaccine is administered as three doses given over 6 months for all ages. For younger teenagers, two doses of Gardasil 9 is sufficient to provide protection against HPV. The two doses are recommended to be given 5-13 months apart. The timing of Year 7 and 8 immunisations delivered at school is likely to change from 2018 onwards as a result. Those aged 15 years and older do not develop as strong immunity, and will still need three doses.If you have any queries about HPV and the immunisation programme, you can contact the Ministry of Health by the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org