Girls in Year 8 who started the three-dose human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine in Year 7 have only until the end of this year to complete the course free-of-charge. After that time, any missed dose will need to be purchased from a health service provider at a cost of approximately $150 each.
The HPV, or cervical cancer vaccine, has been provided to girls aged 12-13 since 2007 as part of the National Immunisation Program. In Victoria, girls who enter the program in Year 7 have two years, or until the end of Year 8, to obtain all three doses at no cost.
It is vital that all girls complete the full course to ensure the best possible protection against cervical cancer, genital warts, and other HPV-related illnesses. Victoria has already seen a 50% reduction in the number of high-grade cervical abnormalities in young women since the HPV immunisation program commenced.
Ideally all three doses are received within a six-month period - at 0, 2 and 6 months. However, research shows if the second and third doses are given later than planned, the body still responds to the vaccine and makes antibodies which protect against HPV infection.
Missed vaccine doses can be obtained through public council immunisation sessions and GP clinics. Parents of Year 8 girls who have not completed the HPV vaccine course are advised to contact their local health provider as soon as possible.
For parents who are unsure of their daughter's HPV immunisation record, please contact the National HPV Vaccination Program Register on 1800 478 734.
The HPV vaccine protects against four types of HPV which cause around 70% of cervical cancers and 90% of genital warts. Taking the vaccine now will protect girls against cervical cancer later in life.
For more information, visit www.cervicalcancervaccine.org.au or phone the Victorian Department of Health immunisation section on 1300 882 008. You can also call the Cancer Council Helpline on 13 11 20.