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HPV vaccine offered for free to Langara College students

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Photo: Tanya Hill
Two types of HPV vaccines offered. Photo: Tanya Hill

Thanks to the B.C. government, female students at Langara College now have a free line of defence against a virus that causes cervical cancer.

Langara College health services will be providing the vaccination Cervarix to women born between 1991 and 1993 for free (while supplies last). This vaccine protects against two strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV) that cause 70 per cent of cervical cancers, according to Immunize BC.

“We are saving lives and it will prevent women from becoming ill,” said Susan Kensett, a community health nurse at Langara health services.

This is part of the federal government’s nationwide vaccination program. In 2007, $300 million was set aside for a vaccination program to reduce the incidence of cervical cancer.

A deadly common infection

HPV is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections. In fact, three out of four sexually active people will become infected with HPV. It can be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, which means you don’t need to have sexual intercourse to contract it. Most people will not show signs or symptoms so it is easy to unknowingly become infected and pass along the virus.

Two specific strains of HPV cause 70 per cent of cervical cancers in women, and two other strains cause 90 per cent of genital warts in women and men.

The government takes initiative to prevent cervical cancer

In 2006, Health Canada approved an HPV vaccination called Gardasil, which protects against the strains that cause warts and cervical cancer. This vaccination is approved in Canada for females between the ages of nine and 46 years, as well as males between the ages of 9 and 26 years.

The vaccine, given in a series of three injections costing around $500 in total, has been provided for free to grade 6 girls in B.C. since 2008.

In March of this year, a new campaign  was launched to vaccinate women born between 1991 and 1993. B.C. Health officials said that offering a vaccine called Cervarix to this age group is cost effective and will prevent cervical cancer.

Cervarix protects against the two types of HPV that cause 70 per cent of cervical cancers. It costs around $300 for the three shots given.

Vaccines are not enough on their own

“The vaccine is effective pre-contact with HPV. Once in contact with HPV, the vaccine is not as effective,” said Kensett.

Despite the success and accessibility of these vaccines, Pap smears have always been the best defence against cervical cancer.

“Women still need regular Pap screenings because the HPV vaccination doesn’t protect against every cancer,” said Kensett.

Some staggering statistics

The World Health Organization warns that cervical cancer kills about 250,000 women worldwide every year. In B.C. alone, 150 women will get cervical cancer every year.

These statistics may seem alarming but since the introduction of the Pap test, a screening test used to detect precancerous and cancerous cells, the cervical cancer death rate has dropped by half, according to the Canadian Cancer Society.

Reported by Tanya Hill

No Comments
  1. Chris Shaw says

    Tanya:
    You may want to talk to me about your HPV article. We’ve done a lot of research into this vaccine and much of what you have been told is simply wrong.
    Chris

  2. Carly Rhianna Smith says

    Hi Chris,

    Thank you for your feedback! We will contact you regarding future stories on the issue.

    I am the editor for this story, and did my best to research and cite the information presented – would you be able to explain where you found errors?

    Again, thank you for the comment – we are thrilled to have some reader engagement.

    Carly

    1. Lucija says

      It is most unfortunate that HPV vaccination continues to be promoted by Canadian and other world health authorities in spite of the fact that HPV vaccines are neither as effective nor as safe as often claimed.

      I would urge the readers to check the following papers
      (If you have trouble obtaining full pdfs please contact me at lucijat77@gmail.com)

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23016780

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22813421

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22420796

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20445208

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22540172

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22188159

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21339044

      1. Bronwyn Scott says

        Dear Lucija,

        My name is Bronwyn Scott, I’m a reporter with The Voice and I’m writing a follow-up story on HPV vaccination.

        I have done some research and have read the articles that you linked above. I still have some questions, however, and wondered if I might be able to talk with you briefly some time this week?

        I would be very grateful for even a few minutes of your time!

        Thank you,

        Bronwyn Scott
        bronwynjscott86@gmail.com

  3. Chris Shaw says

    Carly:
    It can be difficult to get accurate information solely from health agencies or the pharmaceutical company.

    Here is what we know vs. what is claimed:

    1. We don’t (yet) know if the vaccine will prevent any cases of cervical cancer. It might, but this fact has not been demonstrated. This is because the disease takes years to decades to manifest from first infection, if it manifests at all. Given the time frame of the initial trials, virtually none of the women in these trials will have reached the age where cervical cancer will occur. What we do know is that the vaccine may prevent some of the pre-cancerous lesions associated with HPV infection,a large fraction of which would spontaneously resolve regardless of vaccine status. The lesions are considered to be a “surrogate markers” for vaccine efficacy, yet do not really justify the claim of cervical cancer prevention. Indeed, Merck (manufacturer of Gardasil) is quite careful in their claims compared to others cited in the article.

    2. The adverse reactions that some individuals have experienced range from minor to horrific, including death. The VAERS adverse reaction reporting system reports a extremely high percentage of cases from women in this age range who have had negative outcomes following HPV vaccines.

    In summary: the vaccines may not work as well as advertised and their safety profile is not as good as claimed. These points should be borne in mind when providing what is essentially an Op-ed piece in favour of HPV vaccination.

  4. The Voice Online

    […] suggest that the human papillomavirus vaccine (HPV), administered to Grade 6 girls across B.C. and offered for free at Langara, may cause more harm than […]

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