Victorians score best in three-dose HPV vaccine coverage

teenage girl getting vaccine, possible HPV vaccine

Victoria is leading the nation for full three-dose coverage of the HPV vaccine among 15-year-olds, new figures reveal.

New figures by the National HPV Vaccination Program Register show that for Victorians turning 15 years of age in 2014:

  • 77.2% of girls received all three HPV vaccine doses (national average is 73.1%); and
  • 66.5% of boys received all three HPV vaccine doses (national average is 60.0%).

In Victoria, fewer boys than girls started the vaccine course, and to date fewer boys have completed each dose in the series. Male participation decreased by 11.1% from the first dose of the vaccine to the recommended third dose.

Craig Sinclair, Head of Prevention at Cancer Council, says the target for all three doses in both male and female HPV vaccination is more than 90% to achieve very good population immunity.

“The more young people we can vaccinate now, the less HPV-related cancers and disease we will see in the future,” he says.

Medical Director of the National HPV Vaccination Program Register, Associate Professor Julia Brotherton, says more needs to be done to encourage vaccinations.

“The Gardasil vaccine used in our school vaccination programs is already making substantial headway to protect against genital warts and the risk of future cancers that affect both men and women,” she says.

“The risk of cervical pre-cancer in young women is already falling rapidly thanks to the Gardasil vaccine.

“The vaccine is safe and is approved for use in over 130 countries.”

More than 231,600 doses of the HPV vaccine were administered to boys and girls in Victoria last year in the schools program.

Free HPV vaccination has been available to boys since 2013 under an Australian Government program, which has been available to girls since 2007.

Currently all Victorian Year 7 boys and girls are invited to participate in the free school-based program. Outside the school setting, boys and girls aged 12-13 years can get the vaccine for free.

In a limited extension of the program, boys younger than 16 years are able to begin or finish their HPV vaccinations for free with their local council, GP or Aboriginal health service until the end of 2015 in Victoria. The vaccine costs $150 per dose outside of the free program.

Sinclair urges boys under 16 years to take up the Victorian offer for free vaccination in 2015.

“HPV vaccination is really important for males,” he says. “The vaccine has huge short and long term benefits for males, providing protection against genital warts, as well as penile and anal cancers. It’s not too late to be vaccinated.”

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