Rates of girls immunised against HPV improve, but some local communities lag behind

Significant improvements have been made across Australia in immunising girls against the human papillomavirus (HPV), according to a new report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The school-based National HPV Vaccination Program for girls began in 2007, and was extended to include boys in 2013.

'HPV is a common sexually transmitted infection which affects about four out of five people at some point in their lives,' said AIHW spokesperson Michael Frost.

'Immunising girls and boys against HPV can prevent a range of cancers, including cervical cancer, and other conditions such as genital warts.'

Nationally, the percentage of girls fully immunised at age 15 has continued to improve, from 72% in
2012–13, to about 74% in 2013–14, and almost 79% in 2014–15.

Today's report, Healthy Communities: HPV immunisation rates in 2014–15, presents local-level information for Australia's 31 Primary Health Network (PHN) areas and more than 80 smaller local areas.

'Across PHN areas, the highest rates of immunisation for girls were recorded in Murrumbidgee (NSW) at 86%, followed by the Western Victoria and Hunter New England & Central Coast (NSW) PHN areas at about 84% each,' Mr Frost said.

The PHN areas with the lowest immunisation rates included Tasmania (67%), Country SA (69%) and Gold Coast (Qld) (70%).

'Releasing local rates of HPV immunisation can give school-based program managers and local health system managers the information they need to understand what's working well and where improvement is needed,' Mr Frost said.

Rates for girls have improved in most areas, with the greatest increases in NSW areas. A small number of areas in Western Australia recorded a decrease in immunisation rates.

Although these areas reported a recent decline, immunisation rates were previously higher than other areas and so rates are now more in line with other areas.

'When looking at the smaller local areas, we see greater variation, with HPV immunisation rates for girls varying by nearly 30 percentage points,' Mr Frost said.

Today's report is the first to include local-level HPV immunisation rates for boys. It shows that nationally, more than two-thirds (about 67%) of boys aged 15 were fully immunised in 2014–15, while rates across PHN areas ranged from about 57% to 78%.

'HPV immunisation rates are a bit lower for boys than for girls, but the program is newer for boys and rates are expected to improve over time,' Mr Frost said.

The AIHW reports on a range of cancer-related topics, including prevention and screening initiatives. New information on cancer incidence rates and participation in national screening programs has been published today, and is available at cancer and cancer screening.


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