Human papillomavirus (HPV) immunisation

Human papillomavirus (HPV) immunisation

Human papillomavirus (HPV) immunisation in girls and boys helps prevent cervical and other cancers caused by HPV. HPV immunisation is free for everyone from 9 years of age until before their 27th birthday. 

Key points to remember 

HPV immunisation is available to everyone in New Zealand from 9 years of age until before their 27th birthday​.

  • human papillomavirus (HPV) is a very common virus that is spread through sexual contact
  • infection with HPV can lead to cervical and other cancers
  • HPV immunisation is available to everyone in New Zealand from 9 years of age until before their 27th birthday to help protect them from cervical and other cancers
  • all children in New Zealand can be immunised against HPV as part of their free childhood immunisations at 12 years of age (school year 8)

What is human papillomavirus (HPV)?

HPV is a very common virus  that is spread through sexual contact.

About 4 out of 5 people have HPV infection at some time in their lives. Most HPV infections clear naturally and don't develop into cervical or other cancers. Sometimes, HPV infection can lead to the growth of abnormal cells. If these cells go untreated, cervical and other cancers can result many years later.

What types of cancer can human papillomavirus (HPV) cause?

Cervical cancer

Cervical cancer is cancer of the cervix, which is the lower part of the uterus or womb, and is at the top of the vagina. HPV is the main cause of cervical cancer. 

Diagram of the cervix showing where abnormal cells develop

Other cancers

HPV can also cause other genital cancers (vagina, vulva, penis), anal cancer and cancer of the throat and back of the mouth (oropharyngeal cancer).

What other problems can human papillomavirus (HPV) cause?

Genital warts

HPV infection can lead to genital warts. In women, genital warts can appear on the vulva, areas inside or surrounding the vagina, cervix and anus. In men, warts can appear on the scrotum, penis and area inside or surrounding the anus.

About human papillomavirus (HPV) immunisation

All children in New Zealand can have HPV immunisation

All children in New Zealand can be immunised against HPV as part of their free childhood immunisations at 12 years of age (school year 8).

HPV immunisation aims to reduce cervical and other cancers 

HPV immunisation aims to reduce cervical and other cancers caused by HPV in New Zealand by protecting against HPV infection.

There are many strains or types of human papillomavirus - immunisation protects against the most common types that cause cancer. 

The HPV vaccine is only able to prevent HPV infection - it does not treat the infection.

How to get the best protection

For best protection, young people need to have HPV immunisation before they are exposed to HPV, which means before they start having any sexual contact.

For best protection, young people need to have HPV immunisation before they are exposed to HPV, which means before they start having any sexual contact.

Younger teens respond better to HPV imunisation than older teens and young adults.

Although having a sexual partner may well be a long way off, making sure your child has HPV immunisation when they are 12 means they are at far less risk of developing cervical and other cancers caused by HPV in the future.

What to do if your child misses their immunisation

If for some reason your child misses out on the immunisation when they are 12, they can catch up free as long as they have their first HPV immunisation before their 27th birthday.

Is HPV immunisation free for children who are not New Zealand residents? 

Yes HPV immunisation is free for non residents until before their 18th birthday.

Do women who have had human papillomavirus (HPV) immunisation still need cervical screening?

Yes. Immunised women who have ever had sexual contact still need to have cervical screening to check for abnormal cervical cells. The vaccine does not provide protection against every strain or type of human papillomavirus that could cause cervical cancer. Immunised women may still be at risk for some HPV-related cancers.
 

This video is about human papillomavirus (HPV), the vaccine that helps to protect against HPV, and the importance of cervical screening and practising safer sex in protecting women's health. The video is based on a DVD produced by the Ministry of Health in 2011. You can watch all the videos on this topic on the Ministry of Health's You Tube Channel.

Image of the cervix: Copyright: hfsimaging / 123RF Stock Photo.

This page last reviewed 16 January 2017.
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