Medical Centre urges last-minute action on free cancer vaccine

Published 22 June 2009

vaccineThe Commonwealth Government’s provision of free vaccinations against human papillomavirus (which causes cervical cancer) will end soon, and doctors at the UNE Medical Centre are urging young women at the University who haven’t yet done so to take advantage of this opportunity while it’s still available.

The Medical Centre’s Dr Jane Watt said that, when the Government immunisation program began in 2007, UNE received a one-year grant through Hunter New England Health to run a special clinic employing qualified immunisation nurses. “In that first year we administered about 2,500 doses of the vaccine,” Dr Watt said, “and since the grant expired in 2008, we’ve continued with the program using our own immunisation nurse.”

Free courses of the cervical cancer vaccine “Gardasil” are still available to women aged 26 and under who have a Medicare card (i.e., who are not overseas students), and who begin the course before the 30th of June. (If begun by that date, the course – three doses of the vaccine – can be completed by the time the program ends on the 31st of December 2009.) The vaccinations are available at all GPs’ surgeries, as well as at the University Medical Centre – free for those who meet the criteria above, and otherwise at a cost of $450.

“Gardasil” is effective against the two types of human papillomavirus responsible for more than 70 per cent of cervical cancers. Used in conjunction, vaccination and regular Pap smears are recognised as an ideal prevention strategy against cervical cancer – a disease that kills more than 200 Australian women every year. “Gardasil” is now licensed in more than 80 countries.

Professor Ian Frazer, the 2006 Australian of the Year who played a leading role in the development of “Gardasil”, visited UNE last year as a guest of the UNE Medical Society.

Dr Watt urged young women who haven’t been vaccinated against human papillomavirus to consider the benefits – to themselves and to the whole community – that the vaccination offers. “As cervical cancer is caused by a virus,” she said, “it can be prevented by measures including vaccination. This preventative vaccine will have a huge impact on the incidence of the disease over the next 10 years.”

For more information, or to make an appointment for vaccination, phone the University Medical Centre on 6773 2916 or contact your family doctor.