Alberta Vaccine Program Protects Girls From Cancer
The Alberta government will be taking action to prevent the majority of cervical cancers. All girls entering grade 5 in September 2008 will be eligible to receive a vaccine that will prevent 70 per cent of cervical cancers. Grade 9 girls will also be eligible for the vaccine from September 2009 to June 2012.
“The recently approved HPV (Human Papillomavirus) vaccine will help to protect the health of future generations of women in Alberta from an illness that has affected far too many until now,” said Dr. Raj Sherman, Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Health and Wellness. “Preventing illness and keeping Albertans well remains our first goal.”
HPV infection is common - 70 per cent of adults will have HPV at some point in their lives. The infection most often clears on its own within two years. For some however, the infection can become chronic, leading to cervical changes, and possibly cancer. The link between HPV and cervical cancer is now clearly understood.
Each year in Alberta, approximately 180 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer, and 40 will die. There are over 100 types of HPV. The vaccine protects against four types of HPV, two of which cause 70 per cent of cervical cancers and two of which cause 90 per cent of genital warts. The vaccine has been licensed in Canada since 2006 for use in females aged nine to 26 years.
The evidence shows the vaccine is safe, and most effective when given early. Three doses of the vaccine are required to achieve immunity. Immunizations will be delivered by local health regions in schools during the school year. Parents will be receiving information from the school, and will be asked for their consent before their child is immunized.
“This voluntary immunization program is really about taking preventive action to keep our female students healthy as they grow into young, successful adults,” stated Education Minister Dave Hancock. “Local school authorities already work in conjunction with local public health officials on the current Hepatitis B immunization program in place for Grade 5 students, and will ensure appropriate information is available to parents regarding the HPV vaccine.”
“The HPV vaccine is an important addition to our current efforts to combat cervical cancer,” said Dr. Tony Fields, Vice President Medical Affairs and Community Oncology, Alberta Cancer Board. “Immunization will complement Alberta’s Cervical Cancer Screening Program. As the vaccine does not prevent all cancer-causing types of the virus, early detection of pre-cancerous cells will remain key.”