Australian girls lead the field in cervical cancer vaccination programme

Date: Monday, 28-Aug-2006

Australian females will be one jump ahead of some of their counterparts elsewhere in the world with the first vaccinations against cervical cancer taking place in Brisbane today.

Two young Queensland girls, were the first to receive the vaccination against cervical cancer, administered by its Australian inventor, specialist medical researcher Professor Ian Frazer.

Gardasil which was approved in June by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and later confirmed by the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration, is now available for vaccination at a cost of $465 for the course of three needles over a six month period.

The drug is expected to be listed on Australia's Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme by November which will significantly reduce this cost and make it widely available.

Gardasil has been found to be totally effective in protecting girls and women against strains of the human papilloma virus which cause as much as 70 percent of cervical cancer which kills around kills 200,000 women around the world every year.

The virus is spread by sexual activity and the vaccine is thought to be most effective when given to girls before they become sexually active.

Cervical cancer is one of the few types of cancer where there are clear early stages which can be diagnosed and treated, and if caught early enough almost all cases are successfully treated.

Negotiations with the Australian Federal Government are taking place to introduce a program in schools to immunise 12-year-old girls and joint funding with the Commonwealth government is being considered for the vaccine to be administered free to all 11 and 12 year-old school girls.

Health experts in the UK are also considering vaccinating young girls of primary school age against the human papilloma virus.

The European Medicines Agency (EMEA) has already given the vaccine the green light and if a licence application is approved, it could be used in females aged nine to 26.

Trials of Gardasil have shown the vaccine to be effective in children as young as nine and many experts are already in favour of vaccination at 11 or 12, as it is widely recognised that a significant proportion of girls have sex before the age of consent and it is important to give them protection.

Some have expressed concern about introducing the vaccine at such an early age, but should the vaccine prove to have long-lasting protection it could well be given in future to very young children along with the other childhood vaccines.

There is on the whole widespread medical support for a mass vaccination programme to control human papillomavirus (HPV).

Health advocates also caution women against becoming complacent about having pap smears because of the vaccine, and say women need to realise it only protects against 70 per cent of cervical cancers.

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