The schools-based HPV vaccination catch-up program has been declared a remarkable achievement, with 70 per cent of girls aged 12 to 17 receiving all three doses.
The ACT and Victoria were top performers, with 75 per cent of girls fully vaccinated by the end of 2009, according to an article in the latest issue of the Medical Journal of Australia.
The aim of the government-funded program was for all girls aged 12 to 17 to receive three shots.
The vaccination protects people from the human papilloma virus (HPV), which causes cervical and other cancers as well as genital warts.
A free schools-based program is now being rolled out to boys aged 12 to 15 to complement the ongoing program for girls aged 12 to 13.
The girls’ catch-up program delivered more than 1.9 million doses of HPV vaccine, write the authors, led by Dr Julia Brotherton from the National HPV Vaccination Program Register (NHVPR).
They say at least half of Australian women who were aged 12 to 26 in 2007 are fully vaccinated.
However, there are worrying gaps are among indigenous people, with a significant drop off from the first dose to the last dose during the catch-up program.
The article says problems include poor school attendance, lack of culturally appropriate information and challenges in very remote areas.
“The requirement to rapidly implement the program was challenging, but the coverage … represents a remarkable achievement,” says the article.
The coverage is sufficient to have a major impact, but a higher percentage would provide better protection to the vaccinated person and their future partners, Dr Brotherton told AAP on Monday.
“We have already seen declines in HPV infection, genital warts and in pre-cancer lesions of the cervix.”
She urged parents to have their children vaccinated.
“It’s easy and very safe. Other parents around the world are envious of the opportunity we have in Australia to protect our kids in this way.”