HPV Vaccine Failure Blamed on Misinformation Online

A New Plymouth GP has said that girls are taking internet sources more seriously than the advice of medical practitioners on the matter of the Government-funded cervical cancer vaccine.

Over the last few years the immunisation program for the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is closely linked to cervical cancer, has proven less successful than officials hoped. A catch-up program was initiated by the Taranaki District Health Board but only managed to get 46% of girls born between 1991-6 to get vaccinated.

Taranaki DHB Deputy Chairman, Dr. Catt, says that nurses reported that girls believed what they read online about the vaccine. “Where we missed out was not using technology.”

According to Dr. Catt, girls tended to believe information on Facebook.

The vaccine is expected to prevent 70% of cervical cancers, saving around 30 lives per year. The $164.2 million immunisation program began in 2008, but has received negative publicity from morals campaigners, who object to vaccinating against a cancer that requires sexual activity to develop.

Sandra Boardman, the General Manager of planning, funding and population health, believes that negative publicity at the time of the campaign lunch impacted its effectiveness.

Nevertheless, Mrs. Boardman is optimistic. She hopes that a larger percentage of girls will begin the programme next year and will follow it through.