Parents are urged to return consent forms for this year's school immunisation programmes as schools prepare for the three-dose human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination programme for Year 8 girls.
Around 160 New Zealand women develop cervical cancer each year, and around 50 die from the disease, Whanganui District Health Board (WDHB) immunisation co-ordinator Karen Page said.
"Besides protecting women from cervical cancer, the vaccine also gives some protection against other HPV-related cancers and conditions such as vaginal, penile, and other genital cancers, anal, mouth and throat cancers, genital warts and recurrent respiratory papillomatosis (RRP) where warts block the trachea (breathing pipe) in babies and some adults," she said.
"Some treatments for cervical cell changes caused by the HPV virus may also increase the risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes such as miscarriage, low birth weight and prematurity."
The vaccine, which is to begin being administered on March 16, is most effective when given to young teenage girls and well before they became sexually active, she said, adding that the immune response of young teenagers to the vaccine is better than it is for older women.
WDHB has 64 per cent of girls completing three doses, compared to the 58 per cent doing so nationally.
Further information can be found on the Ministry of Health website, or by phone on 0800 IMMUNE (0800 466863) or 348 3260.
Boostrix vaccinations for tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough) for Year 7 boys and girls begins on May 4.
While diphtheria and tetanus cases are rare in New Zealand, 5 to 10 per cent of people with diphtheria die of the disease, which can also lead to paralysis and heart failure, Ms Page said.
Ten per cent of those infected with tetanus will also die.
Around 9000 people have been hospitalised with pertussis since 2011. The Boostrix vaccine is free to pregnant women.