Teenagers missing out on lifesaving vaccine
New data show that a third of young Queensland teens aren’t taking advantage of the opportunity to be vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV) for free in the School Immunisation Program.
Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Steven Miles said the HPV vaccine is part of the School Immunisation Program that offers students in years 7, in more than 570 state and non-state Queensland schools, the opportunity to be vaccinated at school for free.
“Immunisation against HPV can prevent cervical and other cancers, as well as other diseases, so we want as many teenagers as possible to take up the free vaccine,” he said.
“HPV is a really common sexually transmitted infection which infects both men and women. It’s important for people to get vaccinated early.
“A lot of the time kids miss out on the vaccine because the consent for vaccination hasn’t been returned to the school.
“We encourage parents to keep an eye out for the form and get your kids protected from HPV.”
Queensland’s Chief Health Officer, Dr Jeannette Young said in 2017, 67 per cent of year 7 students completed the three-dose course of HPV vaccine at school.
“Fortunately, a number of these students do go on to be vaccinated or finish their course of vaccines with their GP. Data from the National HPV Vaccination Program Register indicate that by 15 years of age, nearly 77 per cent of girls and 70 per cent of boys are fully vaccinated,” Dr Young said.
“Most people aged between 25-74 years will acquire an HPV infection within a few years of becoming sexually active if they haven’t been vaccinated.
“In most people, the infections will clear within a year. However, the virus can cause significant health issues for both men and women including cervical cancer, some head and neck cancers and genital warts.
“A person’s immune system can keep the virus under control meaning they may never show signs of the virus.
“It has been estimated that of all the HPV infections that cause cervical cancer, 50 per cent have been acquired by age 20 and 75 per cent by the age of 30.
“Your best protection is to be vaccinated before you become sexually active, use condoms and for women aged between 25-74 years to undergo regular cervical screening as per the National Cervical Screening Program guidelines.
Under the National Immunisation Program, anyone aged up to 19 years who hasn’t been vaccinated against HPV is also able to get the free vaccine through their usual immunisation provider (GP consultation fees may apply).
Cancer Council Queensland CEO Ms Chris McMillan said the National HPV vaccination program was extremely important.
“Australia has the best cervical cancer prevention program in the world, and when screening is combined with the HPV vaccine we can save more lives and eventually eliminate cervical cancer,” Ms McMillan said.
“Being vaccinated against HPV can help prevent at least 90 per cent of cervical cancers and 90 per cent of HPV-related cancers in men.
“Girls and boys aged 12-13 can receive the HPV vaccine free of charge through the National HPV Vaccination Program.
“It is important parents gives consent for their children to receive the vaccination, so they are protected against HPV and we can get closer to a cancer free future.”
The data is from the 2018 Health of Queensland report, set to be released later this month.
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