A recent survey showed that only a small fraction of at-risk Canadian women are getting vaccinated for the human papilloma virus (HPV), which is closely linked to cervical cancer. Specialists reacting to this finding have said that publicly funded school programs must receive more attention.
The survey found that 90% of women between 18 and 25 hadn’t received the 3-step vaccination. This group comprised 1,000 respondents who were not eligible to receive the vaccine through school-based programs around the country. The group gave lack of time and cost as two main reasons for not getting the vaccine. However, experts still say that more girls should be getting vaccinated before they leave school.
Dr. Murphy reported that in some provinces—including Nova Scotia, British Colombian and Quebec—school vaccination programs are quite successful. In other provinces such as Ontario, however, vaccination rates are falling behind.
“It's a tragedy that this excellent vaccine and excellent intervention to prevent cervical cancer, that's actually being paid for, is not being given to as many girls in those school programs as we would have hoped.” Once young women leave school they are ineligible for the free vaccinations.
The vaccine has been surrounded by controversy. In 2008 the Calgary Catholic School District declined to offer it in schools, claiming that it would promote premarital sex.
GlaxoSmithKline Inc. recently reduced the price of the vaccine by 30%, a move that officials hope will encourage more out-of-school women to get vaccinated.