Australian Vaccination Success

22 Apr 2013

Author: Caroline Bergman Hart

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In 2007 Australia became one of the first countries to implement a nationally funded program of human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination for girls and young women. The vaccine protects against the virus which causes genital warts and some cancers, and a new study published in the prestigious medical journal BMJ has demonstrated its success.
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The ongoing programme offers free vaccination to girls aged 12-13 years in schools. In addition, two catch-up programmes were implemented—one for 13-18 year old schoolgirls and the other for 18-26 year old women in the community. The assessment of data between 2004 and 20011 by researchers in New South Wales and Victoria, demonstrated significant declines in the proportion of young women found to have genital warts, and the absence of genital warts in vaccinated women in 2011.

“The mathematical modellers told us that a large decline was to be expected, but we tend not to believe it until we see it,” said Professor Basil Donovan from The Kirby Institute at the University of New South Wales. “We were particularly surprised to see a 93 percent drop in genital warts in young women when only 85 percent were vaccinated. This suggests that the herd immunity that is protecting men is, in turn, also protecting unvaccinated women.”

Writing in The New York Times, Anahad O’Connor commented, “the American government’s goal of vaccinating young girls against the human papillomavirus has been disappointing, with less than a third of teenagers having completed a full course of HPV vaccine. But now the United States can look to Australia, which six years into a successful nationwide HPV vaccination campaign has experienced a sharp decline in the number of new cases of genital warts among young men and women.

Read more in the New York Times here