SIMCOE, ON, MARCH 27, 2008 – Time is running out for Grade 8 girls who wish to receive free vaccinations that will help protect them against cervical cancer.
The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit is urging Grade 8 girls not to miss out on a provincial government program that pays 100 per cent of the cost of immunization against human papillomavirus (HPV), a leading cause of cervical cancer.
“In order to get the HPV vaccine for free, girls currently in Grade 8 who haven’t started their shots must contact the Health Unit to book an appointment by the end of May to meet the deadline for receiving all three shots,” noted Clinical Services Program Coordinator Wendy Holmes.
The vaccine, under the brand name Gardasil®, protects against four types of the HPV virus, and those types are responsible for 70% of cervical cancers and 90% of genital warts. Each year 1,400 Canadian women develop cervical cancer resulting in about 400 deaths.
Gardasil® has been approved for females ages nine to 26 years of age, but only Grade 8 girls can get it for free. Other females in this age range have the option of paying for the vaccine and having it administered by a doctor. Some health insurance plans may cover the cost of the vaccine.
During the 2007-2008 school year, The Health Unit offered the vaccine to all Grade 8 females at school clinics in Haldimand and Norfolk Counties.
“The school clinics are coming to an end, but Grade 8 girls who missed the clinics can still get the vaccine right now at our regular monthly Health Unit immunization clinics,” Holmes said. “However, once they pass through Grade 8, these same girls will have to pay $400 to $500 for the required three shots. Therefore, interested Grade 8 girls should book an appointment with us right away.”
The vaccine has been extensively tested and proven safe, and is endorsed by the Canadian Cancer Society, Cancer Care Ontario, the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada, and the National Advisory Committee on Immunization. It has been approved for use in many other countries, including the United States, Australia, New Zealand and the entire European Union. In the U.S. alone, more than five million doses have been distributed. Trials show the vaccine is effective for five years. It is not known at this time if a booster will be required.
HPV is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections. It is spread during sexual activity by skin-to-skin contact with an infected person. Most people never get symptoms and may not know they are infected with HPV, but they still carry the virus and can infect others. Depending on the type of HPV infection, an infected individual may develop cervical abnormalities, cervical cancer, other genital cancers or genital warts. Administering this vaccine to young women before they are exposed to the virus through sexual activity dramatically decreases their chances of contracting cervical cancer.
Gardasil® provides protection after three injections. The second dose is given two months after the first dose, and the third dose is given six months after the second dose.
If for any reason, a Grade 8 female has missed a dose, parents are encouraged to contact the Health Unit to schedule an appointment to complete the immunization at one of the monthly clinics.
For more information, contact a member of the Health Unit’s Vaccine Preventable Disease Team at 519-426-6170 or 905-318-6623.
Program Coordinator, Clinical Services
Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit
519-426-6170 Ext. 3152 or 905-318-6623 Ext. 3152