Whanganui District Health Board is watching closely to see if public submissions support Pharmac's proposed changes to its human papillomavirus (HPV) immunisation schedule.
Proposed changes include widening funded access to include males and females aged 26 and under, funding a two-dose regimen rather than a three-dose regimen for those aged 14 and under, and adding a three-dose schedule for those aged 15-26.
It is also proposed the 4 valent (Gardasil) vaccine would be replaced with the 9 valent (Gardasil 9) vaccine, and females who have started a three-dose regimen of Gardasil would be able to complete their remaining doses in 2017.
The HPV vaccine immunises against a variety of cancers such as cervical cancer, as well as genital warts and recurrent respiratory papillomatosis (warts in the trachea). HPV is also indirectly responsible for some adverse pregnancy outcomes such as miscarriage and low birth weight.
Submissions on the proposed changes closed on June 20.
Whanganui immunisation co-ordinator Karen Page said she was delighted young women whose parents declined vaccination while they were at school would be able to be vaccinated.
She said it was also a win for boys who until now had to pay up to $600 for the vaccination.
Ms Page said evidence gathered for her PhD research into HPV shows parents of teenage boys have been advocating for free HPV vaccinations for their sons for some time. She hoped those parents made submissions to show their support for the proposed changes.
Historically, the Whanganui District Health Board has had good results for its HPV vaccination programme, particularly among young Maori.
But Ms Page said the rate of consent for New Zealand European girls has dropped during the past year.
"This trend has been seen in other DHBs and may be associated with the activity of anti-immunisation groups such as GANZ [Gardasil Awareness New Zealand] who emailed schools throughout the country trying to persuade principals and school boards the the vaccine is unsafe," she said.
"The ministry is confident that the vaccine is safe - they have issued several statements confirming this.
"For girls who weren't vaccinated in Year 8, the vaccine is currently available free of charge through GPs up to their 20th birthday.
"I would particularly encourage teenagers who are sexually active to consider vaccination. Parental consent is not required through GPs," Ms Page said.