HPV Vaccination Program Postponed Until After Oct. 10 Election

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HPV Vaccination Program

The Ontario, Canada, auditor general recently decided that anadvertising campaign for a new human papillomavirus vaccination programin the province must be postponed until after the Oct. 10 election, theToronto Star reports (Gillespie, Toronto Star, 9/18). Ontario officials last month said they plan to launch a program this fall that will provide Merck's HPV vaccine Gardasil at no cost to all eighth-grade girls in the province.

Gardasilin clinical trials has been shown to be 100% effective in preventinginfection with HPV strains 16 and 18, which together cause about 70% ofcervical cancer cases, and about 99% effective in preventing HPVstrains 6 and 11, which together with HPV strains 16 and 18 cause about90% of genital wart cases among women not already infected with thesestrains. Canada's health ministry, Health Canada, last year approved Gardasil for girls and women ages nine to 26.

TheCanadian government in March announced that it is including about $258million in the 2007-2008 budget to help pay for provincial HPVprograms. The national government plans to provide 117 million Canadiandollars, or about $111 million, over three years for Ontario's program,which aims to vaccinate 85,000 eighth-grade girls this fall. Provincialofficials plan to call on the national government for permanent funding(Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 8/3).

According to the Star,the ads do not promote Gardasil but do talk about the connectionbetween HPV and cervical cancer. They also provide information aboutthe vaccination program in schools and encourage parents to look forthe consent forms and to visit a Web site for more information.

AuditorGeneral Jim McCarter decided that the ads broke rules that regulategovernment advertising that is allowed during an election, the Starreports. "We look very closely at [ads] they want to run during thewrit period," McCarter said, adding that the only exceptions would bean "urgent" matter that affects public health and safety or somethingthat is not offensive. An ad about girls and sex is bound to bring on aheated debate, he said.

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A.G. Klei, a spokesperson for the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care,said the ads will run after the election. In the meantime, theprovincial government aims to reach parents and students using factsheets that are being sent along with consent forms and brochures topublic heath centers, the Star reports (Toronto Star, 9/18).

Catholic School Board Defeats Motion To Ban Program in Schools

According to the Star, several Catholic school boards across Ontario recently have received complaints about the HPV vaccination program. The Halton Catholic District School Boardon Tuesday voted 4-3 to defeat a motion that would have banned healthofficials from administering the vaccine to its students during the2007-2008 school year.

Trustees in favor of the motion saidthey were concerned the province implemented the program too soonbefore enough research was conducted to prove the vaccine's efficacyand safety. They said they also were concerned that students would beable to receive the vaccine against their parents' wishes. TrusteeDavid Wilhelm said that the motion was too strong and that parentsshould have the ultimate decision to decide if their children will bevaccinated (Ogilvie, Toronto Star, 9/19).

"I'mnot sure what elements of our Catholicity are being threatened here,"Wilhelm said, adding, "What the bishops are telling us is that parentshave the right and the responsibility to make these decisions for theirchildren, and I don't think any of us have the right to take that away,as difficult as that may be." Oliver Carroll, chair of the Toronto Catholic District School Board, said trustees will vote on Wednesday on whether to ban the program in their district (Alphonso/Gandhi, Globe and Mail,9/19). The Huron-Superior Catholic District School Board last weekunanimously decided to delay implementing the program in its schoolsuntil it receives more information from the health ministry.

OntarioPremier Dalton McGuinty said the government hopes to conduct theprogram in schools because of convenience for girls and parents, but headded that if there is "a lot of resistance from a particular schoolboard ... we can do it through public health" (Toronto Star, 9/19).

Opinion Piece

In a related Staropinion piece, Rondi Adamson, a Toronto-based writer, writes that thereaction to Gardasil has been "over-the-top." According to Adamson,Gardasil is being attacked on "several fronts," including safetyconcerns, a concern that HPV vaccination could lead to fewer womenreceiving Pap tests and that vaccinating young women against a sexuallytransmitted infection could cause them to become sexually active."Risks are inherent with any medical discovery," Adamson writes,adding, "I'm not suggesting we should blithely accept what we are toldwithout asking questions. Only that one would think that a vaccine thatcould prevent many cases of cancer among women would be welcome news,yes?" (Adamson, Toronto Star, 9/19).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view theentire Kaiser DailyWomen's Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for emaildelivery at kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, afree service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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