Vaccine offered to girls

A vaccine that could prevent up to 70 per cent of cervical cancers will be made available this fall to girls entering Grades 6 to 9, Health Minister George Abbott says.

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases in Canada. It is associated with formation of cervical cancer, the second most common type of cancer in women between 20 and 40. The HPV vaccine will be offered as a voluntary option in the provincial school immunization program.

Abbott said information will be sent home with students so their parents can make an informed decision about participating. Some parents have indicated they will refuse the vaccine for daughters as young as 11 and focus on avoiding early sexual activity instead.

The B.C. immunization program has the support of the provincial health authorities, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control and the B.C. Cancer Agency.

It is most effective if administered before the age of 13, and before a girl is exposed to the virus.

Initially it requires three doses given over six months, and after a three-year catch-up program the vaccine will be administered during grade six only. It was recently approved for Canada, and is being used in 93 countries including the U.S., and most of Scandinavia and Europe.

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