Cancer Council Victoria is urging parents to ensure their teen boys have all three doses of the HPV vaccine, with new data showing boys are less likely to start and complete the course than girls.
Data from Victorian local government immunisation programsi shows that while 83 per cent of Year 7 boys received the first dose of the HPV vaccine Gardasil in 2013, only 68 per cent received the third and final dose, meaning around a third of students are not fully protected. Meanwhile, just 71 per cent of Year 9 boys started the course as part of the HPV vaccine catch-up program and only 63 per cent had all three doses.
Conversely, in 2013, more Year 7 girls both started and completed the HPV vaccine course (84 per cent had the first dose and 74 per cent received dose three).
Director of the Prevention Division at Cancer Council Victoria, Craig Sinclair, said: "We want to remind parents to ensure their sons have all three doses of the vaccine for maximum protection against HPV related diseases. In order to avoid any out-of pocket costs, all three doses need to be completed by the end of the year.
The HPV vaccine course, which takes six months to complete, is currently available in schools for free for males aged 14 and 15 as a catch-up program until the end of 2014 under the National HPV Vaccination Program. It is also available in schools for free for males and females aged 12-13 years as part of the ongoing program. The HPV vaccine can also be obtained for free for these age groups through Local Council public sessions, local doctors or Aboriginal health services until the end of the year. After 2014, any missed doses will need to be purchased at an out of pocket cost of approximately $150 per dose from a health service provider.
"HPV infects both men and women, and is spread through genital-skin to genital-skin contact during sexual activity. Usually this causes no symptoms and goes away by itself, but can sometimes cause serious illness including cancer," Mr Sinclair said.
"The HPV vaccine, Gardasil, protects against two high-risk HPV types which cause 90% of all HPV-related cancers in men. It also protects against two low-risk HPV types which cause 90% of genital warts."
"Over 97 million doses of Gardasil have been given safely in over 120 countries around the world - it is safe, effective and causes no serious side effects."
From 2015, the HPV vaccine will only be offered to Year 7 male and female students as part of the ongoing program.
If you are unsure if your son is fully immunised, please contact the National HPV Vaccination Program Register on 1800 478 734. For more information on the HPV vaccine visit hpvvaccine.org.au
i Data sourced from Department of Health Immunisation Newsletter Issue 70, August 2014. Excludes doses given by other immunisation providers.