Assumptions get in the way of vaccine

The Nelson Mail

New Zealand


A vaccination programme to protect people from the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV) has been “bedevilled” by an assumption that getting girls vaccinated means they’re having sex, Nelson’s GP spokesman says.

Gardasil, a vaccine that helps to prevent cervical, vaginal and vulval cancers and genital warts, has had a poor pick-up rate in the region over the past year.

Nelson Bays Primary Health statistics show that only 32.8 per cent of girls born between January 1990 and December 1991 had received the full course of three vaccinations to the end of June. Just over 45 per cent had had the first shot and 38.1 per cent the second.

The rates were up slightly compared to the previous quarter but were “disappointing”, Dr Graham Loveridge said. “They are less than encouraging.”

He said the figures didn’t include those from the Independent Nursing Practice or from Murchison, so the numbers might not be exact.

Dr Loveridge said the vaccination programme had suffered from its association with sex, and uptake had been poor throughout the country.

“This one was always going to be a sensitive issue and it didn’t seem to hang together well.

“The time to have [the vaccine] is before you have had a number of sexual partners, which is what exposes you to the virus. Of course, you can’t go around targeting 13-year-olds and saying, `You look as though you’re likely to start having intercourse soon – you’d better have the vaccine’, so it got tainted with all those issues. Were we implying that having your 13-year-old daughter vaccinated meant she was about to start having intercourse?

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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.