Genital wart cases drop with introduction of free vaccine

25 January 2016

Genital wart cases drop with introduction of free vaccine

A healthcare worker has called for the universal introduction of the HPV vaccine, saying the present regime is "discriminating against boys". 

The comments follow a report from the Institute of Environmental Science and Research that illustrates the effectiveness of the vaccine in reducing numbers of a sexually transmitted infection linked to the virus.

Figures from the institute show genital wart cases dropped nationally from 3257 to 2003 between 2010 and 2014. 

A HPV vaccine was first offered to young women between the ages of 12 and 20 in late 2008. It offered them protection from contracting HPV, a virus that can result in the development of genital warts and, in rare cases, cervical cancer.

New Zealand HPV project manager Claire Hurst said the government should follow Australia's lead and make the free vaccine available for young men as well as young women.

Failing to provide young men with a free vaccine went against principles of equal access to healthcare, Hurst said. 

"It is discriminating against boys." 

As well as cervical cancer, HPV was linked to cancers that boys could develop, including anal cancer and oropharyngeal cancer.

Hurst said the reduction in genital wart cases in New Zealand mirrored international trends in countries where similar vaccination programmes had been introduced.

As well as cutting the prevalence of genital warts, the HPV vaccine lowered the number of women who were developing cervical abnormalities, Hurst said.

"The vaccine is incredibly effective. It's safe and it has been given to millions of girls worldwide."

In Marlborough and Nelson, the number of genital warts cases also dropped after the introduction of the free vaccine. 

Nelson Marlborough District Health Board public health, rural health and district nursing service manager Peter Burton said between 2009 and 2015 the number of genital warts consultations dropped from 86 to 29 in the region.

The uptake of the vaccination had increased over that time, from 38 per cent of eligible young women in the first year to 58 per cent in 2015.

The vaccination prevented serious infections and was one of the vaccines on the national immunisation schedule that prevented cancer, Burton said.

For the best protection, girls needed to be vaccinated before they were exposed to HPV through any sexual contact. 

This was why year 8 girls were offered the vaccine in schools, Burton said.

The HPV vaccination programme was starting again in Blenheim in mid-March. 

What is HPV? 

* HPV is a very common sexually transmitted virus.

* There are many types of HPV. 

* Some high-risk types may cause abnormal cell changes of the cervix, the anus, vulva, or throat in women. 

* In men, these high-risk types can cause these changes in the penis, anus, or throat. 

* Low-risk types of HPV infect the genital area and can cause warts.

* Genital HPV is usually acquired by direct skin-on-skin contact with someone who has HPV during intimate sexual contact.

* If someone has the virus, but have no symptoms, they can still spread the virus through skin contact.

* The HPV vaccine Gardasil protects against the most common types of HPV that cause genital warts and cervical cancer.

Source: Ministry of Health

- The Marlborough Express