As part of Queensland Health’s School Immunisation Program, every Year 7 student will be offered two free vaccinations as recommended in the National Immunisation Program. These are the Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine and Diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine (dTpa).
Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine
Human papillomavirus has been identified as important in preventing a range of cancers and other conditions in males and females. There is currently no treatment for HPV.
As well as causing many genital cancers, the virus is a major cause of mouth and throat cancers which have been on the increase in recent years.
It can also cause tumours in the air passages to the lungs.
More than 80 per cent of males and females have had a HPV infection at some time in their lives.
Most HPV infections do not cause any symptoms and people usually do not know they have the infection.
Most people clear the infection although between 10-20 per cent will continue to have the virus in their body. This can lead to the development of a range of cancers and other conditions later in life.
While there are many stories on social media about the risks of the vaccine against HPV, No serious side effects have been recorded during rigorous monitoring over this time.
What is the Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine?
- HPV vaccine Gardasil®9 is given as two injectable doses with an interval of (at least) six months apart. It is important to ensure timely completion of the HPV schedule in the year it is commenced to maximise protection.
What are the benefits of receiving HPV vaccine?
- The HPV vaccine protects boys and girls against nine types of HPV-related cancer and diseases by preventing infection.
- Queensland Health has been using this vaccine for more than a decade. More than nine million doses of the vaccine have been given in Australia and more than 200 million doses worldwide.
- There is currently no treatment for HPV.
- The vaccine provides girls with the best protection against cervical cancer and is part of the National Cervical Screening Program.
- It is important for boys to have the vaccine as one third of all HPV cancers occur in males.
Immunocompromised children (with major medical conditions listed below) require three doses of Gardasil®9 given at 0, 2 and 6 months to attain adequate protection and may not be able to be vaccinated in the School Immunisation Program. Please consult your doctor to discuss HPV vaccination for your child.
Primary or secondary immunodeficiencies (B lymphocyte antibody and T lymphocyte or partial deficiencies); HIV infection; malignancy; organ transplantation; autoimmune disease; or significant immunosuppressive therapy (excluding asplenia or hyposplenia).
Diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine (dTpa)
One dose of a combined booster vaccine against three organisms including whooping cough (pertussis), diphtheria and tetanus is offered.
Diphtheria is caused by bacteria that can infect the mouth, throat and nose and results in an extremely sore throat and breathing difficulties.
It can produce nerve paralysis and heart failure. About one in 15 people infected with diphtheria will die.
Since 2014 Queensland has had 10 cases and one death from diphtheria.
Tetanus occurs when wounds are infected by bacteria present in soil. It causes painful muscle spasms, convulsions and lockjaw.
In Australia about three per cent of people who develop tetanus will die. Between 2016-2018 there has been six cases of tetanus in Queensland.
Pertussis (whooping cough)
Pertussis (whooping cough) is a highly contagious respiratory disease resulting in a severe cough that may last for months.
Infected people may gasp for air causing a ‘whooping’ sound and they may have severe coughing spasms followed by gagging and vomiting.
Infections in adolescents and adults are common and can lead to prolonged illness.
Whooping cough is highly contagious and can be deadly for newborn babies too young to be vaccinated.
Complications can include convulsions, pneumonia, coma, inflammation of the brain, permanent brain damage and long-term lung damage.
Vaccines given in childhood to protect against whooping cough, or having had whooping cough disease, do not provide lifelong protection.
Six Queensland babies died of whooping cough between 2000 and 2013.
Between 2016 and 2018 there was more than 3000 cases reported in Queensland.
What is the diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (dTpa) vaccine?
- The dTpa vaccine is a booster three in one vaccine that protects against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis.
Both HPV and dTpa vaccines are safe and effective.
Worldwide, extensive clinical trials and post implementation safety surveillance data indicate that these vaccines are well tolerated and extremely safe.
Why are students vaccinated at this age?
These vaccines are being provided in Year 7 as adolescents receiving vaccines before age 14 develop a stronger immune response than those receiving vaccines later in adolescence due to changes in the immune system after this age.
- These diseases are serious, can be life-threatening, and can occur during adolescence and adulthood.
- Even if your child has been vaccinated against diphtheria and tetanus (Td), they should still be vaccinated with dTpa vaccine to provide protection against whooping cough as well.
- There is no minimum waiting period between previously administered tetanus/diphtheria (Td) vaccines and dTpa.
Can these vaccines have side effects?
Like all medications, vaccines may have side effects but these are usually mild and temporary and do not lead to any long-term problems. If a reaction is severe or persistent, or if you are worried, contact your doctor or hospital as soon as possible.
Common side effects that may occur include fever; mild headache, feeling unwell, discomfort, redness, pain or swelling at the injection site.
Serious side effects, such as severe allergic reaction, are extremely rare.
Less common side effects are chills, diarrhea, nausea, body aches, decreased energy and sore or swollen joints.
The current dTpa vaccine is different from the vaccine offered when your child was of preschool age and adverse reactions are less common.
If your child has a reaction after vaccination you should:
- put a cold damp cloth on the area to relieve the pain if your child complains of tenderness at the injection site.
- give paracetamol (as per directions) only if pain and fever are present.
- contact your local doctor or seek medical attention if your child has an unexpected reaction that you are concerned about
- provide feedback to us via Smartvax SMS we will send to you 7 days after immunisation.
To get more information:
School Immunisation Program clinics are provided by a team of specially trained registered nurses.