A one-time human papillomavirus vaccine program will be offered to women in British Columbia who were born in 1991, 1992 and 1993 to protect them from cervical cancer.
“We have been offering the school-based HPV vaccination program since 2008, which has helped to protect thousands of British Columbian girls from cervical cancer,” said provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall. “I am pleased that with this program we can expand that to ensure that all young British Columbian women aged 21 and under will have had an opportunity to protect themselves.”
HPV infections are the cause of almost all cases of cervical cancer. It’s estimated the vaccine can prevent up to 70 per cent of these cancers, as well as a number of pre-cancerous changes to the cervix that require treatment.
The vaccine will be available for the women starting in mid-April and will be provided in a series of three doses over a six-month period. These young women will be able to receive the vaccine from pharmacists, physicians, sexual health and youth clinics, post secondary institution student health services and public health units.
B.C. began offering the HPV vaccine to grade six and nine girls in 2008. Girls born in 1994 and later have been offered the vaccine in the school-based program. Until now, those born in previous years have been ineligible for the publicly funded vaccine.
After studying the data on the vaccine and its cost-effectiveness, the BC Communicable Disease Policy Advisory Committee recommended that B.C. offer a one-time program for young women.
“The HPV vaccine is a safe and highly effective vaccine for the prevention of cervical cancer,” added Dr. Monika Naus, medical director of immunization programs, BC Centre for Disease Control. “We recommended this one-time program so that we could protect more young women from cancer and provide coverage for those who missed the school program.”
The cost of the program will be about $3.5 million, plus the cost of physician and pharmacist immunizations through the Medical Services Plan and Pharmacare.
Women who want to receive the vaccine, but do not fall into the eligible age range have the option of consulting with their physician or pharmacist about purchasing the vaccine. All women, even those who have received the HPV vaccine are encouraged to continue to get regular Pap tests, as the vaccine does not protect against all cancer-causing strains of the virus.