The Cancer Council Australia has welcomed today’s announcement that the Australian Government will fund the world-first cervical cancer vaccine under the National Immunisation Program.
Chief Executive Officer of The Cancer Council Australia, Professor Ian Olver, said the decision was an exciting development for future generations of Australian women. “The funding of the vaccine will have positive health implications for Australian women in the future and we are extremely pleased the Australian Government has reached a funding arrangement with the vaccine’s maker,” Professor Olver said. “The vaccines’ impact on Indigenous communities will be most beneficial, as the rates of cervical cancer in this population are up to three times as high as the non-Indigenous population.” Prime Minister John Howard and Health Minister Tony Abbott announced this morning that the vaccine would be available to girls aged 12-13 years from 2007 and a two-year catch-up program will be available to girls aged 13-18 years through schools. In addition, women aged 18-26 years will be able to access the funded vaccine through their general practitioners. Pioneered by Australian of the Year, Professor Ian Frazer, the vaccine protects against two strains of the human papilloma virus which cause 70 per cent of cervical cancers. Each year 735 Australian women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and nearly 300 lose their lives to the disease. “Australia’s cervical screening program is one of the best in the world and it will remain important for all women as the vaccine does not protect against all strains of HPV,” Professor Olver explained. “The vaccine is not a replacement for the Pap screening program. The Pap smear program has been highly successful in reducing deaths from cancer of the cervix and the vaccine will improve that.” “The current screening program is still the best protection from cervical cancer for women who have ever sex and they should continue to have their two-yearly Pap smears.” Health Minister Tony Abbott’s media release is available here(Source: Cancer Council of Australia: November 2006.)