Maori and Pacific women lead the way in vaccine uptake

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Young Pacific and Maori women are leading the way in taking up a vaccine which protects them against infection with HPV (human papillomavirus), Pacific Island Affairs Minister Georgina te Heuheu says. HPVs are common viruses which lead to most cervical cancers and genital warts.

Latest Ministry of Health figures show 70% of all young Pacific women born between 1992 and 1996 have started receiving the free HPV vaccine compared to 52% of all girls in that age group. Maori also have higher-than-average uptake with 57% of those born between 1992 and 1996 having started on the vaccine.

Three-quarters (75%) of Pacific girls born in 1997 have already started receiving the three doses required to provide protection. And 62% of young Maori women born in 1997 have started on the vaccine, well ahead of the overall average of 49%.

This is a credit to these young women and their families, who recognise the significance of cervical cancer and the disease burden it can cause. Pacific and Maori women have been twice as likely to develop cervical cancer as other women, and their risk of dying from the illness is more than twice that for other ethnicities, says Mrs te Heuheu.

Mrs te Heuheu says the latest statistics show there is still room for improvement “But the high Pacific and Maori uptake of this vaccine will serve as an inspiration to others. Credit must go to all those in the community who have contributed to the programme delivery.”

Overall, the vaccination campaign has already begun producing results researchers at the Auckland Sexual Health Clinic report a 63% drop in the number of young women presenting with genital warts at Auckland clinics since the introduction of the publicly funded HPV vaccine two years ago.

It is important to note that HPV immunisation does not replace the need for regular cervical smear tests. The Ministry of Health recommends cervical smear tests every three years for women from the age of 20 until they are 70 if they have ever been sexually active.

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