Concern over low vaccine uptake

New Zealand

Emma Baily

June 18, 2011

South Canterbury has the lowest uptake of the Gardasil vaccine in the country, nearly three times lower than the national average.

Latest Ministry of Health figures show just 17 per cent of girls born in 1997, now in year 10, had the three Gardasil vaccinations last year to protect against strains of human papilloma virus (HPV), which can lead to genital warts and cervical cancer.

Nationally, 48 per cent of girls born in 1997 have been immunised. The Lakes District Health Board area has the highest rate, with 63 per cent fully immunised, followed by Counties Manakau with 62 per cent coverage.

The closest to South Canterbury is the Canterbury District Health Board area, with 30 per cent fully immunised, followed by Bay of Plenty with 38 per cent. Otago had 55 per cent coverage.

South Canterbury District Health Board chief executive Chris Fleming said the low uptake was a concern.

“I am very concerned that we have the lowest coverage for young girls aged 12 and 13 [born 1997], and the district health board will be doing everything it can to ensure this improves. I also note that vaccination rates for older teenage girls in South Canterbury are much higher and in line with the rest of the country.”

In South Canterbury, only 6 per cent of girls born in 1998 have been fully immunised, but six months remain for the others to be fully vaccinated. Of girls born in 1993, 59 per cent are fully vaccinated, as well as 61 per cent of girls born in 1994, 64 per cent of girls born in 1995 and 56 per cent of girls born in 1996.

Mr Fleming said several factors were thought to have led to the low coverage. “The start of HPV immunisation in general practices coincided with the change to the primary care structure in South Canterbury. This unfortunately distracted staff and practices away from HPV at the same time that girls born in 1997 reached the age to be immunised.”

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Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.