Myths cause girls to ignore protection
A QUARTER of Australian girls eligible for the free Gardasil vaccine are not taking up the offer, prompting a move to dispel the ‘‘ myths’’ surrounding the cancer-fighting jab.
Studies into the vaccine’s uptake in schools have revealed a poor understanding of the way it protects against cervical cancer, said Cancer Council Australia spokeswoman Kate Broun.
Also it highlighted a concern among some parents over their daughter, at ages 12 and 13, being offered a vaccine to do with sex when this issue was over the horizon.
‘‘ For some parents that has been a concern and it is a reason they have not consented to the vaccine,’’ Ms Broun said.
‘‘ But I guess we would say there is no evidence to suggest that a girl who has been vaccinated has gone on to have sex earlier, or any more sexual partners, than a girl who has not been vaccinated.
‘‘ Perhaps that is a fear for some parents, but it is not a f e a r b a c k e d b y t h e evidence.’’
Health authorities aim to administer t he Gardasil vaccine before sexual activity begins, to maximise its effectiveness.
T h e v a c c i n e p r o t e c t s against four strains of the
LIFE-SAVING JAB: the cancer council is encouraging girls to get the free Gardasil vaccine h u ma n p a p i l l o ma v i r u s , w h i c h a r e s e x u a l l y transmitted and can cause genital warts more immediately or cervical cancer later in a woman’s life.
With good take-up in the community, it could reduce the nation’s future incidence of cervical cancer by 70 per cent and cut cases of genital warts by 90 per cent.
Other research has shown around half of teenage girls were unaware that HPV was sexually transmitted, while two out of three did not know of its link to cervical cancer.
Cancer Council Australia has launched ia new website ( cervicalcancervaccine. org. au) with the aim of boosting awareness and providing m o r e i n f o r m a t i o n parents.
The launch coincides with the latest round of Gardasil vaccinations in schools, and parents may have already received the relevant consent forms.
Ms Broun said there were also cases where parents had changed their mind after opting out of the free
t o v a c c i n e , o n l y t o f i n d Gardasil costs $ 450 to obtain through a doctor.
‘‘ The dream is to eradicate cancer by immunising people against a virus that we know causes cancer . . . hopefully we can dispel some of those myths and provide parents with the information they need,’’ Ms Broun said.