Immunisation Week (May 1-7, 2017) – make sure your teens are protected

Monday May 1, 2017

​Today marks the start of Immunisation Week (May 1-7) and Canterbury DHB is reminding parents to ensure their older children, teens, as well as any younger ones, are immunised. ​

Free immunisations are recommended for 11 year olds in Canterbury to protect against diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough and human papillomavirus (HPV). Diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough vaccine is available free from general practices for those aged under 18, and HPV is available free up to the age of 27.

Dr Ramon Pink, Canterbury Medical Officer of Health, says right now is a good time to make sure your child's vaccinations are up to date.

"Particularly as children are approaching high school age, it's important to remember that they need a further round of immunisations to protect them against preventable diseases into adulthood," he says.

"This is also a key time for a young person's immune system which responds particularly well in forming immunity at around this age."

If your child hasn't had these vaccinations, it's not too late, as diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough vaccine is available free from general practices for those aged under 18. HPV is available free for those aged under 27, but offers maximum benefit when received in early adolescence.

The change in the immunisation schedule at the start of 2017 saw the HPV vaccine eligibility widen to include males aged 11 – 26, which means this vaccine is now available for boys and girls.

"In Canterbury boys and girls can receive the vaccine from General Practice at 11 years of age, at the same time as their scheduled booster for diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough.

"Those aged 14 years or younger need two injections. The second injection is given at least six months after the first injection. Those aged between 15 and 26 years inclusive need three doses."

Dr Pink says that as well as encouragement to immunise older children and teens, Immunisation Week is also an opportunity to inform parents about the upcoming availability of free chickenpox immunisation at age 15 months, starting from 1 July this year.

"Chickenpox is often a mild though unpleasant disease. However, it can lead to serious complications that result in a significant number of hospitalisations each year. It's great this vaccine is now going to be free, so we can do more to protect our young children from this disease."

What is HPV (Human Papilloma virus)?

  • HPV is a common virus that spreads through intimate skin to skin contact.
  • Most people will have an HPV infection at some point in their lives.
  • Most HPV infections are asymptomatic or appear to get better on their own. Some HPV infections however, don't get better, and can lead to cancer years later if they aren't detected early and treated.
  • The seven HPV types most likely to cause cancer and the two HPV types that cause most genital warts can be prevented by immunisation.

What cancers are caused by HPV?

  • Cancers caused by HPV affect both men and women, these can occur in various parts of the body, particularly the genital area, throat or mouth.
  • The most common in women is cervical cancer. The most common in men are cancers of the throat or mouth. 
Page last reviewed: 01 May 2017
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