Schoolgirls turning down HPV vaccination

ONE in three North Coast schoolgirls are turning down free vaccinations and putting themselves at risk of cervical cancer - and it's their parents that are to blame.

Figures from NSW Health show the participation rate for North Coast Year 9 and 10 girls in free Gardasil vaccinations is only 68 per cent.

A Department of Education and Training spokesman said the mid-year census for 2007 showed there were approximately 5000 girls in Year 9 and 10 in the North Coast region - which equates to 1600 local schoolgirls who aren't getting vaccinated.

As with other immunisation programs, parents and guardians must give consent for their daughters to receive the vaccine.

It's an alarming trend across the State, with figures showing more than 40,000 NSW schoolgirls between Years 7 to 10 did not participate in the school-based vaccination program.

The vaccine, developed by Australian of the Year Ian Frazer, is most effective when given to young girls before they become sexually active and has a range of side effects including headaches and dizziness.

But North Coast Area Health Service director of public health Paul Corben said the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh the risk.

“It's a very exciting development in the fight against cervical cancer as the vaccine provides protection against Human Papillomavirus (HPV) strains which are responsible for 70 per cent of cervical cancer, the second most common cancer worldwide.”

“The vaccine is safe and effective, and being a new vaccine, people are vigilant in reporting the side effects, which are minor.”

The Therapeutic Goods Administration claims four out of five people will be exposed to HPV during their lifetime, with exposure from a single lifetime partner enough to result in an infection that can lead to cervical cancer.

NSW Premier Morris Iemma said the Government expects to vaccinate more than 230,000 school students over the next two years, with the HPV vaccine provided on an ongoing basis to Year 7 students from next year.

Vaccinations are delivered in a series of three injections.

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