Pharmac proposes changes to HPV immunisation schedule

22 June 2016

The Whanganui District Health Board (WDHB) is watching closely to see if public submissions support Pharmac’s proposed changes to its human papillomavirus (HPV) immunisation schedule from 1 January 2017.

HPV vaccine protects against a variety of cancers, such as cervical cancer, as well as genitals warts and recurrent respiratory papillomatosis (warts in the trachea). It is also indirectly responsible for some adverse pregnancy outcomes such as miscarriage and low birth weight.

Submissions closed on Monday 20 June following Pharmac’s announcement three weeks earlier that it was proposing five key changes. WDHB immunisation coordinator Karen Page considers all five very positive. She says she’s delighted that young women whose parents declined vaccination while they were at school could soon have the opportunity to be vaccinated. And she says it’s also a significant win for boys who until now have had to pay up to $600 for HPV vaccination which is beyond the means of many parents. The proposed changes include:
  • Funded access would be widened to include males and females aged 26 years old and under.
  • A two-dose regimen would be funded rather than a three-dose regimen for males and females aged 14 and under. This would be subject to Medsafe approval of the two-dose regimen.
  • A three-dose schedule for males and females aged 15-26 years.
  • The 4 valent (Gardasil) HPV vaccine would be replaced with the 9 valent (Gardasil 9) vaccine.
  • Females who have started a three-dose regimen of Gardasil would be able to complete their remaining doses in 2017.
Ms Page says evidence gathered for her PhD research into HPV shows parents of teenage boys have been advocating for free HPV vaccinations for their sons for some time so she hopes those same parents made submissions to show their support for the proposed changes.
Historically the WDHB has had good results for its HPV vaccination programme - particularly among young Māori. But Ms Page says regrettably, the rate of consent for New Zealand European girls has dropped during the past year.
“This trend has been seen in other DHBs and may be associated with the activity of anti-immunisation groups such as GANZ who emailed schools throughout the country trying to persuade principals and school boards that the vaccine is unsafe,” Ms Page says.
“The Ministry is confident that the vaccine is safe - they have issued several statements confirming this. For girls who weren’t vaccinated in Year 8, the vaccine is currently available free of charge through GPs up to their 20th birthday. I would particularly encourage teenagers who are sexually active to consider vaccination. Parental consent is not required through GPs.”