The Government has announced free access for young people to the improved HPV vaccine
From 2018, Gardasil 9, which protects against nine HPV strains (up from four) will be offered through school-based immunisation programs to all 12 to 13-year-old boys, and girls in years seven or eight.
Only two doses of the new vaccine are required, down from three, which is likely to make it easier for adolescents to receive the full schedule.
HPV coverage rates in Australia are now higher than they have ever been, with the proportion of 15-year-olds receiving all recommended doses increasing to 78.6% for girls (up from 78% in 2015) and 72.9% for boys (up from 67.2% in 2015).
The new vaccine will help protect girls and women ages nine to 26 against cervical, vaginal, vulvar, and anal cancers and genital warts caused by nine types of HPV.
For boys and men ages nine to 26, the vaccine will protect against anal cancer and genital warts caused by those same HPV types.
The announcement was made at Sydney’s North Bondi Surf Club, where Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull observed a crowd of lifesavers and future lifesavers.
“So many of those young boys and girls down there will be proofed throughout their whole lives from this virus that is of course the cause of cervical cancer and other cancers as well,” the PM said.
“There is the possibility of eliminating this virus completely through vaccination.”
Health Minister Greg Hunt said the move would save lives.
Professor Ian Frazer, immunologist and inventor of the Gardasil vaccine, said that “cervical cancer kills about a quarter of a million women worldwide every year.
“In this country, the data that has been collected since the vaccine has been introduced show that there’s been an about 90% reduction in the pre-cancer that would require to be treated surgically amongst women that have been vaccinated,” he said.
“So that basically this vaccine is working exactly the way we would expect it do, and there’s a real prospect that over time the viruses that cause the cancer will disappear from the community and the cancer will go too.
“The papillomavirus comes in about 200 different flavours if you like, but only 10 of them contribute to cancer. The vaccine that we have at the moment protects against two of those 10, and those two together are responsible for about 75% of the cancers.
“This new vaccine adds in further strains which are responsible for most of the other 25%, so that by giving the vaccine that we now have it will be possible to protect against almost all cervical cancers.
“I should point out that those people who have already had the current vaccine are well protected by that vaccine and so long as they carry on doing the recommendation of the government, which is that they should continue to get screened for cervical cancer through the program that’s available at the moment, they will be fully protected.”