Ten years after the initial release of the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine to women, Australian scientists have created a new and improved jab that will protect against more strains of cancer than the original.
It has been unveiled, that thousands of students will have access to an updated version of the HPV vaccine.
The new vaccine, Gardasil 9, protects against nine strains of Human Papilloma virus – five more than the previous vaccine – and will be provided free of charge to 12 and 13-year-old students (girls and boys) across Australian schools from 2018.
The Australian-developed vaccine will protect recipients against almost 90% of cervical cancers, while the current vaccine protects against 75% of cervical cancers. The new jab will also offer protection against anal, vulvar and throat cancers caused by HPV, as well as genital warts.
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During a press announcement, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the new jab was an "extraordinary development".
"Gardasil nine ... is a new evolution of the Gardasil vaccine which will protect against additional strains of the Human Papillomavirus, making it even more effective, providing even more protection for young Australians," he said.
Mr Turnbull also added that this new vaccine increases the exciting possibility of eliminating HPV completely. This is significant as according to estimates by Cancer Australia, cervical will become the 19th most common cause of death from cancer among females this year.
"There is the possibility of eliminating this virus completely through vaccination. It is a great story about the importance of vaccination [and] the importance of our immunisation programs," Mr Turnbull said.
Kidspot reports, since 2007, when Australia became the first country to introduce free national HPV vaccinations to teenage girls, more than 200 million doses of the original vaccine have been injected in over 100 countries worldwide.
A recent study highlighting the success of the vaccination, found that the proportion of girls aged 17 and younger with abnormal cell changes (the precursor of cancer) fell by almost a half.
Furthermore, the success of Gardasil has influenced a drop in the recommended frequency of cervical cancer screens for women. As of May this year, Australian women above the age of 25 are encouraged to get a cervical cancer screen once every five years, in place of the every-two-year Pap smear.
The ABC reports, Professor Ian Frazer, the immunologist who developed the drug, said that those who have the original vaccination are "well protected".
"I should point out that those people who have already had the current vaccine are well protected by that vaccine and so long as they carry on doing the recommendation of the Government, which is that they should continue to get screened for cervical cancer through the program that's available at the moment, they will be fully protected," he said.
For more information about the HPV vaccine, visit HPV Vaccine online or speak with your trusted GP.