Health and Community Services
August 6, 2007
Newfoundland and Labrador to Roll Out HPV Vaccination Program in September
The Provincial Government will roll out a vaccination program beginning this school year to protect females against the human papilloma virus (HPV), which is known to cause many types of cervical cancer, the Honourable Ross Wiseman, Minister of Health and Community Services, announced today. The program will be administered to approximately 2,800 Grade Six females throughout the province starting in September 2007.
"This vaccine is considered one of the first and most successful steps young women can take to prevent cervical cancer and we want them to have the best advantage to avoid this terrible disease," said Minister Wiseman. "Over the past few months, we have been working in cooperation with our regional health authorities to develop a sustainable program for the delivery of this vaccine and I am pleased to say that we are proceeding as planned for the upcoming school year."
The vaccine, Gardasil, protects against four types of HPV, which together cause 70 per cent of cervical cancers and 90 per cent of genital warts. The vaccine was approved by Health Canada in July 2006 for females between ages nine and 26.
"We made the decision to administer the vaccination program to females in Grade Six based on several considerations, including national recommendations and timing with our other school-based vaccination programs," said Dr. Faith Stratton, Chief Medical Officer of Health. "Beginning this fall, the HPV vaccine will become an established component of our provincial vaccination program."
The program will cost approximately $4.6 million over three years.
HPV infects half of all sexually-active women between ages 18 and 22 in North America. Since the vaccine does not prevent infection from all strains of HPV, females will still need to get a pap test to detect early signs of cervical cancer that may be caused by the other types of HPV. A pap test is the only way to find changes in the cells of the cervix that could lead to cervical cancer later in life. Females of all ages should have a regular pap test once they become sexually active.
"Pap tests are, and will continue to be, a vitally important tool in screening for cervical cancer and will be used in conjunction with this new vaccination program," said Minister Wiseman. "Currently only 36 per cent of women in our province receive an annual pap test. Through the recent expansion of the cervical screening program province-wide, our goal is to increase participation rates in cervical screening thereby further reducing the incidence of cervical cancer."
Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) Vaccination Program
What is HPV?
HPV is a common virus that infects the genital area and lining of the cervix. There are many types of HPV. Some types of HPV can slowly develop into cancer if not found and treated. Other types may develop into warts that are generally not harmful.
To prevent the spread of this virus community/public health nurses will offer this vaccine to all Grade Six female students. This will be done in school. Three needles are given; usually two in the fall (two months apart) and the third in the spring. They are given in the upper arm.
How is HPV spread?
HPV can be spread by close contact during sexual activity with a person who is infected with the HPV virus. Most infections do not cause symptoms and people do not know they have the infection. Three out of four people who have had sex have been in contact with some type of HPV. The best way to avoid HPV infection is to avoid sexual contact. Condoms can offer some protection from HPV and other sexually transmitted infections; however, this virus can be present on skin not covered by the condom so it can still spread by skin to skin contact.
Why do we recommend a vaccine for HPV?
HPV infections usually go away on their own and do not cause any health problems; however, sometimes the infection will linger and create changes in the cells of the cervix that can progress to cancer. The HPV vaccine will reduce the risk of this occurring by 70 to 90 per cent. Cervical cancer is the second most common cause of cancer in women aged 20 to 44 years.
Why give the vaccine to females in Grade Six?
The vaccination works best when it is given to pre-adolescent females before they start having sexual contact. It does not work as well for those who were exposed to the virus before getting the vaccine.
Is the HPV vaccine safe?
Yes, the vaccine is safe, effective and has few side effects. The most common side effects include slight fever, pain, and swelling and redness at the needle site.
Why are three needles needed?
For complete protection all three doses of the vaccine are necessary. These needles must be given over a six-month period.
Is this vaccine mandatory?
No, it is not mandatory. Consent forms will be provided to parents/guardians to indicate if they wish for the child to be vaccinated.
2007 08 06 4:15 p.m.
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