Urgent need for women to receive final dose of cervical cancer vaccine

Tuesday 24 November, 2009

All women aged 18 to 26 who have received the first two doses of the cervical cancer vaccine were today urged to book their final jab immediately by Cancer Council Victoria.

Time is running out to receive the last dose of the vaccine, which must be administered by 31 December this year in order to receive it free under the government's free vaccination program.

"We're concerned that many women aged 18 to 26 who have taken up the first two doses of the government's free cervical cancer vaccine have not completed the final instalment," said Professor David Hill, Director, Cancer Council Victoria.

Professor Hill continued: "Women really need to schedule their last dose by early December at the latest, particularly as GPs, clinics and community health practices will be busy in the lead up to Christmas when the deadline for the final dose is approaching."

"Schedule your third appointment now."

Record numbers of Australian women received the first instalment of the vaccine according to the National HPV Vaccine Register, which indicated a national uptake of 35-60 percent among women aged 18 to 26.

While Professor Hill said this was an extremely positive response for an opt-in vaccination program, he stressed: "It is incredibly important for women to access all three doses, as this provides optimal effectiveness against the four types of human papilloma virus (HPV types 16, 18, 6, 11) protected by the vaccine."

The Australian Government's free vaccination program for women aged 18-26 ends on 31 December this year. Women are able to access their third dose for free if they accessed their first dose before 30 June 2009. The vaccine will continue to be offered free of charge for girls in Year 7 as part of the ongoing National Immunisation Program.

Almost all cases of cervical cancer are linked to HPV, which is spread by genital skin to genital skin contact. Scientists have identified 13 types of HPV that cause cervical cancers. The vaccine protects against types 16 and 18, which are responsible for 70% of all cervical cancers. The vaccine provided by the Australian government's free vaccination program also protects against 90% of genital warts.

"It's also vitally important for vaccinated women to continue having two-yearly Pap tests between the ages of 18 and 70. A combination of Pap tests and the vaccine provide the best form of protection against developing cervical cancer," said Professor Hill.

For more information about the cervical cancer vaccine, Pap tests and HPV visit www.papscreen.org.au or call the Cancer Council helpline on 13 11 20.