Vaccine rumours do rounds

East And Bays Courier 27/11/2009
Myths and legends about the effectiveness of the new cervical cancer vaccine are circulating around Auckland schools. Gardasil helps protect women against human papillomavirus (HPV) which causes 70 percent of cervical cancer cases and 90 percent of genital warts. The three dose vaccine is for women aged nine to 26, with girls who were in years 8, 12 and 13 this year receiving it for free through school programmes. But experts say it is this very group of Auckland school girls who are spreading misconceptions, resulting in many choosing not to get the vaccine.

The Auckland University Immunisation Advisory Centre is conducting a study on the factors that contribute to minor injection site reactions. Helen Petousis-Harris, director of research and senior lecturer in vaccinology at the centre, is working on the study for her thesis. She says while trying to recruit girls, many myths and rumours have surfaced which seem to have had an effect on the uptake of the vaccine. Some common misconceptions are that the vaccine is only effective if the girl has never been sexually active, they are too young to have it and it will make them infertile. Mrs Petousis-Harris says girls also think the vaccine is being tested on them and they are “guinea pigs”.