Human papillomavirus (HPV) is associated with over 70% of cervical cancer, cancers of the vulva, vagina, penis, and anus, their precursor neoplasias, and extragenital diseases including squamous cell carcinomas of the head and neck. It also causes recurrent respiratory papillomatosis, and 90% of genital warts.

Quadrivalent HPV (Types 6, 11, 16, 18) recombinant vaccine (Gardasil®, CSL) is now provided under the National Immunisation Program to all students entering secondary school (because it is most effective when given before exposure to HPV through sexual contact).

The vaccine contains particles of protein sufficiently like the viral shell (capsid) to induce antibody production but, without viral DNA, they can’t infect cells or reproduce.

TGA data compiled from reports following 7 million doses of Gardasil® confirms that adverse reactions are generally mild, with headache and injection site reactions the most common. Allergic reactions occur at rates similar to other vaccines given to this age group, and demyelinating disorders, such as multiple sclerosis, are seen no more frequently than in the general community.

Australia has seen a population wide decrease in genital warts of about 59% in young females, and 29% in young males to December 2009, reflecting a current study showing 93% efficacy.

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