B.C. has one of the lowest provincial registration rates across Canada for the HPV vaccination program.
At below 67 per cent, B.C. Cancer officials are both concerned and mystified why a research-proven treatment against a virus that causes cervical cancer doesn’t have a greater participation uptake.
John Spinelli, vice-president, population oncology with B.C. Cancer, says a joint effort this year by his organization along with B.C. Centre for Disease Control, B.C. Women’s Hospital and the Provincial Health Services Authority aims to raise the vaccine program enrolment rate.
Parents and caregivers for Grade 6 boys and girls will receive a consent letter for their children to be administered the HPV vaccine.
“We obviously want to see that vaccine participation rate as high as possible,” he said.
He said about 200 women in B.C. are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, and about 50 die from it.
“It’s not necessarily a huge type of cancer in terms of the numbers impacted, but this vaccine can help prevent it from occurring,” Spinelli said.
“The more we learn about viruses and how they increase the occurrence of specific types of cancer, the more we can look at specific vaccinations that eliminate those virus risks, that following this path will help detect and reduce other forms of cancer in conjunction with improving early detection cancer screening initiatives.
“That is the hope but we are not there yet. Right now it is about early detection and lifestyle prevention measures, such as not smoking, where the success stories are.”
Spinelli said the Internet offers a soundboard for many to voice their health concerns about the HPV vaccination, most of which are discounted by science and research results on an international scale.
“We just want to get the message out there this vaccine is a safe program, it’s been around for a long time, is effective, and actually prevents people from getting this form of cancer,” he said.
Spinelli thinks a correlation exists among many parents that administering the vaccine leads to sexual promiscuity among youth, an accusation he says that has no conclusive research merit.
He says the connection of the virus being sexually transmitted plays into those fears.
“There is no evidence that this actually happens and I would be shocked if it really was the case,” he said about the promiscuity connection.
The HPV vaccine was originally administered to Grade 6 girls, an age where it was felt the vaccine would have the most benefit before youth become more sexually active, which diminishes the impact of the vaccine.
It was extended to include boys, Spinelli added, because it provides added protection for girls and also there were rare cases where the virus was found to cause cancer in males.
“The girls are generally most at risk but what we have learned over time is it was also beneficial for boys to be vaccinated as well,” he said.
For more information about the HPV vaccine, check out www.immunizebc.ca.
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