Cancer Council shows support as first Victorian school girls get cancer jab

Thursday 19 April, 2007

A young woman whose mother died from cervical cancer spoke today about her role in the development of the cancer vaccine being administered to Victorian school girls from this week.

Girls from Princes Hill Secondary College in North Carlton were among the first to receive the new cervical cancer vaccine today. The Cancer Council Victoria and the Australian Medical Association joined them to mark the beginning of the National human papilloma virus (HPV) Vaccination Program in Victoria.

Standing by was 24-year-old Tess Whittakers, from Carlton, who took part in the clinical trials of Professor Ian Frazer's human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine four years ago.

"Ten years after my mother died, I found out that a vaccine was being developed that could potentially save thousands of women and their children from experiencing what my mother and my family went through, and I wanted to be involved. It is fantastic that future generations of women will now have access to the vaccine and consequently will have greater protection against developing cervical cancer,"said Ms Whittakers.

Along with the Mayor of Yarra City Council, Jenny Farrar, The Cancer Council Victoria's CEO, Professor David Hill, was at Princes Hill Secondary College to show support.

"The Cancer Council is hugely supportive of the National HPV Vaccination Program. This vaccine will be very valuable in Australia, where there are about 700 new cases of cervical cancer every year," said Professor Hill.

"As part of the Australian government-funded National Immunisation Program, the HPV vaccine is being offered to all females aged 12 to 26 in Australia from 2007 to mid 2009, and then as an ongoing program for Year 7 girls.

"Local Councils will implement the secondary school based component of the program from April 2007. General Practitioners (GP) and other community based immunisation providers will implement the catch-up program for 18 to 26 year olds from July 2007 until June 2009," he added.

Federal AMA President Dr Mukesh Haikerwal also spoke at the event, reminding women about the need to continue screening for cervical cancer.

"I encourage all eligible women to receive this vaccination, but they should not rely on the vaccine alone for protection," he said.

"It is very important that all women aged 18 to 69, whether vaccinated or not, continue having regular Pap tests as not all cancer-causing HPV types are protected by the vaccine."

The HPV vaccine

The HPV vaccine approved for use in Australia is called GARDASIL® and is supplied by CSL Biotherapies. The vaccine is effective in protecting against persistent infection with HPV types 6, 11, 16 and 18 which cause about 70% of cervical cancers and 90% of genital warts.

The vaccination course consists of three injections in the upper arm, recommended to be given on a 0, 2 month and 6 month schedule.

For more information about Pap tests and cervical cancer visit http://www.papscreen.org.au/ or call The Cancer Council Helpline on 13 11 20. For further information about the roll out of the National program, visit www.australia.gov.au/cervicalcancer or contact your local Council.

- Ends -

To arrange an interview with Professor David Hill or Tess Whittakers, contact Emma Fay, Tel: 0415 477 537

Note to editors:

The Victorian vaccination program will roll out as follows:

April 2007:
Females in Year 7 and in Years 10, 11 and 12

July 2007:
Females aged 18 to 26 years can access the vaccine from their GP. The three injections (over six months) need to be completed before the woman turns 27 and before June 2009.

2008:
Females in Year 7 and in Years 9 and 10

2009:
Females in Year 7 (which will be ongoing)

Statistics

Australia

  • In 2002, there were 689 cases of cervical cancer
  • In 2004, 212 women died from cervical cancer
  • In 2003-2004, 60.7% of eligible women aged 20-69 had a Pap test

Victoria

  • In 2004, there were 142 new cases of cervical cancer.
  • In 2004, there were 47 deaths from cervical cancer.
  • In 2004-2005, 65% of eligible women in Victoria aged 20-69 had a Pap test