Victorian teens urged to get fully immunised against cancer-causing HPV

Thursday 22 March, 2018

New data shows some Vic regions lagging behind

New data released today shows a promising increase in the number of young people being fully immunised against HPV in Victoria, but some local areas are lagging behind.

Data released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, sourced from the National HPV Vaccination Program Register, shows the number of 15-year-old Victorian girls who received all doses of the HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine rose from 76% in 2012–13 to 80.9% in 2015–16.

However, in some areas, the rate of fully immunised girls has slightly decreased, including in Bendigo, Latrobe, outer east Melbourne, west Melbourne, Mornington Peninsula, North West Victoria, and Warrnambool and South West Victoria.

Among boys, who were added to the vaccination program in 2013, 72.3% were fully immunised against HPV in 2014–15, increasing to 75.8% in 2015–16. But as with their female counterparts, some areas have seen a decrease in boys immunisation rates, including Bendigo, Geelong and inner Melbourne.

Cancer Council Victoria Manager of Screening, Early Detection and Immunisation Kate Broun said it was important for all eligible young Victorians to participate in the HPV vaccination program.

"Overall, this new data is encouraging for young Victorians, but it is disappointing to see teenagers in some areas are falling behind and not taking the opportunity to complete the free vaccine course to help protect themselves against HPV," Ms Broun said.

"The vaccine significantly decreases the chance of developing HPV-related cancers, including cervical cancer and anal cancer, and genital warts. But it’s important to receive all doses of the vaccine to achieve immunity."

Associate Professor Julia Brotherton, Medical Director of the National HPV Vaccination Program Register at the Victorian Cytology Service, said the addition of Gardasil 9 to the program in 2018 would make it easier for teenagers to be fully immunised, with just two doses instead of the previous three required.

"The new vaccination is even more effective, protecting against 9 HPV types which cause around 90% of cervical cancers, 95% of all HPV-related cancers in men and 90% of genital warts. However, just like the previous vaccine, the key for teenagers is to make sure they achieve full immunity by having all required doses of the vaccine," Associate Prof Brotherton said.

"We’d encourage young people and their parents to contact the HPV register to make sure they have received all required doses of this potentially life-saving vaccine while they are still in the eligible age bracket for free vaccination and help prevent the spread of HPV which can lead to several cancers in both men and women."

The HPV vaccine is provided free in schools to all boys and girls aged 12 to 13 under the National HPV Vaccination Program. To be eligible for the two dose HPV vaccine course, you must be aged 14 or under at the time you receive the first of the two doses.

Girls and boys aged up to 19 can receive the HPV vaccine free of charge from a doctor or at a healthcare clinic.

For more information on who to contact in your state about a catch-up vaccination, visit the How, when and where is the vaccine given page at hpvvaccine.org.au

To find out how many doses you or your child has received, call the HPV Register on 1800 HPV REG (1800 478 734).