Medicines Safety Authority Medsafe has approved the use of Gardasil, cervical cancer vaccine on Thursday. Several health professionals are calling for its use in a national immunization program.
The vaccine is said to offer immunity against four strains of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) which is a common sexually transmitted infection. Although HPV infects about half of sexually active adults sometime during their life, it is usually harmless. However, it can cause the development of abnormal cells in the cervix lining, which can turn cancerous.
Presently Gardasil is recommended for use from ages 9 to 26, before women become sexually active and is expected to eventually included in the national immunization schedule.
Still Medsafe says women will need to have regular pap smears because of limited protection, besides which it is not known how long the vaccine will last.
According to Biopharmaceutical company CSI Limited Gardasil will be available in New Zealand in September.
The vaccine will have to be included in the Ministry of Health's national immunization program before its nationwide implementation. However the next review of its schedule isn't due until 2008.
Dr Dynes McConnell, from the Royal Australasian College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has warned for the need for action before then. She says that New Zealand will face a risk of falling behind if the vaccine is not introduced on a national level within the next one to three years.
Each year around 180 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in New Zealand and around 60 die from the disease.