October 28, 2010
ESTHER TAUNTON – Taranaki Daily News
Social networking websites could be putting teenage girls at risk of contracting a deadly disease.
New Plymouth GP Peter Catt says girls are choosing to believe what they read on the internet instead of the advice of medical practitioners when it comes to the Government-funded cervical cancer vaccine.
Slow uptake of the human papillomavirus (HPV) immunisation programme led the Taranaki District Health Board to offer a catch-up programme over the past two years.
However, the catch-up has been unsuccessful, with just 46 per cent of Taranaki girls born between 1992 and 1996 having started vaccination.
Dr Catt, who is deputy chairman of the Taranaki District Health Board, said the message from his nurses was that girls believed what they read online about the vaccine.
“Where we missed out was not using technology,” Dr Catt said.
“The feedback from my nurses is that what was on Facebook was believed.
“We weren’t on Facebook.”
General manager of planning, funding and population health Sandra Boardman said negative publicity at the time of the campaign’s launch had impacted on the number of girls being vaccinated.
“There was a lot being said about the vaccination being given to girls who are sexually active but it’s not,” Mrs Boardman said.
“It’s given to girls at that age because that’s when their bodies have the best response.
“This is a vaccination for a potentially deadly disease – why wouldn’t you give that to your daughter?”
Public health nurses had found that, because the campaign in 2009 was fairly aggressive, offering the programme to high schools again this year was not successful, Mrs Boardman said.
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