HPV vaccine rolled out to all children

HPV vaccine rolled out to all children

Pharmac will now fund the HPV vaccine for all children, including boys.

The Human Papillomavirus vaccine has been free to all girls up to the age of 20 since 2008.

From January next year, the vaccine will also be free for everyone until the age of 26.

"Boys are definitely at risk of HPV-related cancers, hence the importance of extending the vaccine to everybody in the community," says the Immunisation Advisory Centre's Dr Nikki Turner.

While the Human Papillomavirus is commonly associated with cervical cancer, about a third of all HPV-related cancers occur in men.

It's associated with cancers of the mouth, throat, genital regions and anus.

Pharmac's director of operations Sarah Fitt says the widening of access to the vaccine "will provide significant health benefits to New Zealand".

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman says the vaccine itself is being changed to protect against nine HPV stereotypes – up from four – which will increase the protection against cervical cancer from 70 percent to 90 percent.

These changes will mean the number of doses required for those 14 and under will be reduced from three to just two.

The Government drug funding agency is also adding the chickenpox (varicella) vaccine to the childhood immunisation schedule from July 2017.

"Pharmac will also fund one dose of the varicella vaccine for all 15 month olds. Eleven year olds who haven't been exposed to chickenpox and have not been vaccinated will also be eligible," says Dr Coleman.

"As a result of these changes, an extra 100,000 New Zealanders are expected to be immunised against these potentially serious illnesses."