Wednesday, May 06, 2009


Fighting the virus - the case for cervical cancer protection...

Fighting the virus - the case for cervical cancer protection. Let me state from the outset that this is a subject that I, personally, know little about. But this has been the subject of both the printed media, radio talk back and television in recent days.

Dozens of New Zealand schools have decided to opt out of the government’s mass immunisation program to protect girls against cervical cancer. There has been considerable comment on both sides of the argument.

Girls as young as 12 years old started receiving vaccinations at their schools in Feb 2009. However, there has been 50 adverse reactions reported so far this year, with ten reports of fainting and one of an allergic reaction.

The previous Labour-led Government had qualified the value of its program by claiming the future death rate of cervical cancer would be halved in future decades by the use of the $177 million program over five years to provide free immunisations.

Each year there are 180 diagnoses of cervical cancer and about 60 women die from it. I wonder how this compares with Australian, British and North American diagnoses?

The Health Ministry’s chief adviser for population health, had confirmed 78 schools had declined to participate further in the program.

The program has been controversial from the beginning, with morals campaigners objecting to the vaccinations of girls against a cancer caused only by sexual activity.

The Womens Health Action group claimed the program was introduced too quickly and had asked for an urgent review.

The Privacy Commissioner had said her office had been working with the Health Ministry and the School Trustees Association to check on complaints about personal information contained in rolls being released. This should help to discover the faults in the first immunisation and how it could be managed better.

I wonder if Australia, Britain and North America have similar immunisation programs?

Just what is Cervical Cancer and how is the virus being fought?

1/ Cervical cancer is caused by the human papilloma virus. Some strains of HPV lead to cervical cancer.

2/ The HPV infection that causes cervical cancer is spread through sexual contact.

3/ The Gardasil vaccine protects against two HPV types that cause most cervical cancers and genital warts - provided a person is not infected already.

4/ An immunisation program began in September, offered to women born in 1990 and 1991, and younger school leavers.

5/ Women still need to have cervical smear tests.

6/ The school - based vaccination program begun this year is available to girls in years 8 to 13,

7/ The vaccine is most effective when given to girls who have never been sexually active.

I hope this has proven useful to understand why an immunisation program was thought necessary in New Zealand. How does it compare to other overseas programs?

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