Aids Weekly Plus
Australian Health Minister Tanya Plibersek announced that the country has begun vaccinating pre-teen boys with Gardasil, the vaccine to prevent human papillomavirus (HPV), in a government-sponsored program to prevent cervical cancer. More than 280,000 boys will be eligible for free vaccination, which also protects against genital warts. The vaccine will be administered in three doses over seven months along with the HPV vaccination for girls that began in 2007. Plibersek noted that because of the country’s immunization program, Australia’s HPV vaccine coverage rates are among the best in the world, with a resulting significant drop in HPV-related infections. She added that the government is confident that extending the program to males will reduce HPV-related cancer and disease in the future.
The Department of Health and Aging (DOHA) argued that the disease mostly affects mature women and in 98 percent of cases it clears by itself. DOHA questioned the necessity of the $451 million investment in pre-teen vaccinations and stated that in rare cases, if the virus persists and goes undetected, it could lead to cervical cancer—but this usually takes approximately 10 years.
In a video promoting the program, Dr. Julia Brotherton explained that the HPV vaccine is administered to 12 to 13 year olds because at that time their immune systems are healthy and produce excellent antibody levels, providing great levels of protection when they receive the vaccine at that age. Professor Ian Frazer cited data from major clinical trials used to test the vaccine when it was first developed. He noted that in clinical trials with 20,000 women, none of the participants who were vaccinated caught HPV during five years of follow–up, whereas many in the control group acquired the virus fairly frequently.