Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adolescents in NSW are participating in the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination program at the highest rate ever, a new study shows.
The study published in the Medical Journal of Australia today found Aboriginal students in NSW are achieving their first dose of the HPV vaccine at equal or higher rates than non-Aboriginal students.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common sexually transmitted infection which can cause genital warts and a range of cancers.
NSW Health’s Director of Communicable Diseases, Dr Vicky Sheppeard, said participation in the program was particularly important for Aboriginal women.
“HPV vaccination is particularly important for Aboriginal women to prevent cervical cancer as, compared to other Australian women, they have twice the incidence and four times a greater mortality rate from cervical cancer,” Dr Sheppeard said.
Coverage is higher among Aboriginal females than non-Aboriginal females in NSW, with a rate of 95.9% and 89.9%, respectively. The rate for males is 85.6% and 86.0%.
While first dose uptake among Aboriginal adolescents is high, the study found that across the four states and territories studied, Aboriginal adolescents were less likely to complete the course than other Australian adolescents.
NSW Health is working with researchers and other stakeholders to build on these gains and implement strategies to identify the barriers to vaccination and maximise the opportunities for Aboriginal adolescents to complete the two-dose course of HPV vaccination.
It employs Aboriginal Immunisation Health Care Workers in each local health district, whose role is to work with local communities to increase participation of Aboriginal students in the school vaccination program.
HPV vaccination is a safe and effective method to prevent infection and disease due to the targeted HPV types that cause cervical cancer (almost all cases) and cancers of the anus (90%), vagina (65%), oropharyngeal area (60%), vulva (50%) and penis (35%).
Protecting children from potentially deadly diseases is a key priority for the NSW Government, which has invested approximately $130 million in the 2018-19 Immunisation Program budget, including Commonwealth and state vaccines.