Since the beginning of 2017, the HPV vaccine has been made free for everyone aged 9–26, including boys. It had previously only been free for girls. The HPV immunisation programme has been available in New Zealand since 2008.
Both girls and boys in Year 8 are offered the vaccine through their school, or through their GP if a school-based immunisation programme isn’t available.
Many parents have questions about HPV and the vaccine. Here are five frequently asked questions and the answers:
1. What is HPV?
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the name given to a family of common sexually transmitted viruses. HVP is spread through sexual intercourse and sexual skin-to-skin contact. It’s estimated 80% of people have had an HPV infection at some stage in their life. Most HPV infections don’t cause any symptoms and clear up on their own. However, HPV can cause several types of cancer including cervical, throat, mouth, penis and anal cancer, as well as genital warts.
2. Why should my child be vaccinated?
The HPV vaccine provides protection against a range of cancers and genital warts. It’s free for everyone aged 9–26 years of age, males and females. Vaccinating your child helps stop the spread of HPV and cancer diagnoses later in life. In schools, two doses of Gardasil 9 (which replaced the existing Gardasil vaccine from the beginning of 2017) is given to children aged under 14 years, and in three doses to youths aged 15 years and older. Gardasil 9 will be offered in GP practices once stocks of the existing Gardasil run out.
3. Isn’t the age group a bit young?
It’s best if your child is vaccinated before they start being sexually active, that’s because the vaccine works better before your child is exposed to the viruses. It’s hard to know when your child will start engaging in sexual contact, but many children start experimenting sexually at puberty, and some even earlier.
4. Is the vaccine safe?
As with any vaccine, there is a small chance of side effects. The most common side effects are pain, swelling and redness at the injection site. The most serious side effect of any vaccination is anaphylaxis (an allergic reaction), which usually occurs within minutes of receiving a vaccine and is extremely rare. When you receive any vaccination, you will be asked to wait 20 minutes so medical treatment can be given if anaphylaxis occurs.
5. Where can I find more information?
If you have any questions, please talk to your GP or healthcare provider. There are also several websites with information about HPV and the vaccine