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New Zealand schools refuse Gardasil vaccination

May 04, 2009 12:53pm

AUSTRALIAN cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil is facing resistance in New Zealand where dozens of schools have refused to take part in the national immunisation program.

Almost 80 schools across the country have opted not to give their female students the vaccine, designed by Queensland scientist and former Australian of the Year Ian Frazer.

It has been widely adopted in Australia, where it is given freely through all high schools to girls aged 12 and over.

But it has been the subject of controversy in New Zealand, with moral campaigners objecting to vaccinating girls against a cancer they can get only through sexual activity.

This is despite expectations that the drug, which blocks against two strains of human papilloma virus that cause cervical cancer, will halve the cancer's death rate.

New Zealand's Ministry of Health revealed today that 78 schools - five per cent of the total - had chosen not to take part in the program.

Reasons were not given but it is believed many religious schools had refused on moral grounds, while other institutions did not have enough good information about the benefits of the vaccine.

"Common reasons cited for declining the vaccination are around the age and the sexual naivete of the girl and the duration of the protection,'' a report produced by one of the country's district health boards said.

Others may have been concerned about high rates of minor adverse reactions to the injection.

About 80 reactions have been reported since the vaccine was licensed in New Zealand last year, most involving nausea, 10 cases of fainting and one report of "mild anaphylaxis (allergic reaction) with rapid recovery''.