Sonya is a social issues reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Uptake of HPV vaccine on the increase

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Nationally, more girls are getting vaccinated against HPV.
Nationally, more girls are getting vaccinated against HPV.

More Bay girls are choosing to get vaccinated against human papillomavirus, the virus behind 70 per cent of cervical cancers and the cause of genital warts.

Jim Miller, medical officer of health for Toi Te Ora - Public Health Service, said in the Bay of Plenty District Health Board area, which covers Tauranga, Western Bay and Eastern Bay, about 800 to 900 girls have had the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine each year since its introduction in 2008.

It was too soon to see any noticeable impact on cervical cancer numbers, but Dr Miller said there had been a large drop in the number of genital warts cases nationwide.

"HPV infection may take many years before it causes abnormal smear tests or cervical cancer, so it is a bit early to be seeing the full benefits.

"HPV, however, also causes the much more common genital warts. Sexual health clinics across the country have reported a recent drop in cases. Between 2010 and 2014, first presentations with genital warts dropped by 36 per cent."

Dr Miller said the uptake of the vaccination had increased each year. Nationally, about 60 per cent of eligible girls took advantage of the free vaccine.

Dr Miller said the safety of the HPV vaccine had been extensively studied around the globe and has been subject to review by a number of international bodies.

"The vaccine was shown to have a good safety profile during large clinical trials involving more than 20,000 people from 30 countries, including New Zealand.

"HPV vaccine is as safe as any of the other vaccines used in our national vaccination schedule," he said.

"It offers a chance to reduce cervical cancers substantially and to reduce the number of cervical abnormalities requiring treatment in the fairly near future. However, that will only happen if the vaccine uptake improves."

Dr Miller said there was plenty of information available to help parents and carers make a decision on whether to offer this vaccination to their daughters.

More than 200,000 girls and young women in New Zealand have had the full three dose course since 2008.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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