Key Points:

More than 38,000 secondary school students will receive the cervical cancer vaccine in the first term this year.

The vaccine, called Gardasil, is expected to cut New Zealand's cervical cancer mortality rate in half.

Parents and caregivers of girls aged 12 to 18 from the 296 schools involved in the programme will be sent letters requesting consent when school resumes.

Public school nurses and specially trained nurses from the three Auckland health boards will administer the vaccines in schools.

Those within the age bracket who do not receive the vaccine at school will be able to get the three courses of injections through their family doctor or a health clinic.

Each year about 160 New Zealand women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and 60 die from the disease.

The vaccine is expected to reduce the number of deaths by half in the long term and will also result in fewer abnormal smear results.

Gardasil has been approved in 100 countries including Australia, the United States and Britain.

Clinical trials have involved more than 27,000 women from 33 countries, including New Zealand. More than 26 million doses of Gardasil have been distributed worldwide.

The vaccine must be taken in three doses over six months in order to provide protection.

It targets the human papillomavirus which causes abnormal cells to grow on the cervix and is responsible for 99 per cent of cervical cancer cases. The vaccine addresses 70 per cent of those cases.

Information is available on the website www.medsafe.govt.nz.