Western Sydney Local Health District public health unit will visit all high schools in western Sydney to administer the first of three Human papillomavirus vaccinations to male students.
In a world-first initiative announced by Federal Health Minister, Tanya Pilbersek, more than 280,000 school boys across Australia will join more than one million girls aged 12-16 years who have already been fully vaccinated against HPV under the school vaccination program.
A health district spokeswoman said the vaccination, called Gardasil, is highly effective in preventing infection with the four most common strains of HPV infection, including the strains that most commonly cause cancer.
HPV is the name given to a group of viruses that affect males and females.
Most people who are sexually-active will have a genital HPV infection during their lifetime.
Most will suffer no symptoms and the virus will go away by itself, but in some cases, the infection can cause cancer.
Vicky Sheppeard, public health unit manager for the health unit said Gardasil will protect boys from cancer and genital warts, and continue to reduce the rates of cervical cancer among women.
“The HPV virus infects four out of five sexually active people at some point in their lives and is linked to cancer and other disease," Dr Sheppeard said.
“Extending the program to males will reduce HPV-related cancers and disease in the future.”
As part of health district's high school vaccination program, nurses will visit all high schools in western Sydney to administer the first vaccination over the next few months, starting next week.
Year 7 students in NSW are also offered vaccination against diseases, including diphtheria-tetanus-whooping cough (dTpa), hepatitis B and varicella (chicken pox).
“Last year, WSLHD’s Public Health Unit administered more than 45,000 vaccines to school students across western Sydney, as part of its high school vaccination program,” said Dr Sheppeard.
“We visit all schools across western Sydney, up to three or four times a year.”
Vaccinations are delivered by qualified immunisation providers, but only if parents and guardians provide their consent.
Since the HPV vaccination program started in 2007 there has been a reduction in HPV-related infections in young women and a reduced incidence of genital warts in males and females. There has also been a reduction in pre-cancerous lesions in young women.
The school-based HPV vaccine program has been available to Year 7 girls in NSW since 2007.
Parents, students and health professionals can find more information at australia.gov.au/hpv.