Free HPV Vaccine for Ontario Girls

Free HPV Vaccine for Ontario Girls

Some good news for Ontario girls today. Premier Dalton McGuinty announced that starting this fall the province will offer Grade 8 girls a free HPV vaccine. If administered before girls are sexually active the three-shot Gardasil vaccine protects against infection from four separate strains of the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus, which combined, cause 70% all cases of cervical cancer and 90% of genital warts.

Cervical cancer kills 400 Canadian women each year and 274,000 women globally. As condoms don't offer total protection from HPV (because they don't completely cover the genital area) the Gardasil vaccine will be instrumental in preventing cervical cancer. Of course, even with the vaccine, safer sex practices and annual pap smears are a must, but as current U.S. government figures show HPV infection as rampant with half of American "women in their early 20s and one-quarter of teenage girls" infected any new tools to include in a young woman's safe sex arsenal are a reason to cheer.

A recent study also showed that HPV increases the risk of certain types of throat cancer among people infected through oral sex. "This adds more data that HPV is an important cause of cancer and that this is an important vaccine," said Joseph A. Bocchini Jr., who chairs the American Academy of Pediatrics' committee on infectious diseases.

In Ontario the optional vaccine will be administered by public health officials at schools. Initial federal funding is for a three year vaccination program. Nova Scotia and PEI will also provide free vaccines to girls and hopefully other Canadian provinces will soon jump on board. Britain also plans to implement a vaccination program for young women beginning in September 2008.

For More info on HPV check out Scarleteen's rundown. They also have a handy FAQ on the HPV Vaccine.

*** Update (August 3)***

University of Washington epidemiologist Dr. Laura Koutsky and her research team have discovered traces of HPV under young men's fingernails, which suggests another possible transmission route. Koutsky predicts that at some point it will become clear that boys and young men should be vaccinated too.
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