Girls opting out of HPV shots

Less than half of Grade 8 females got the
three-dose vaccination against HPV

By Kelly Pedro The London Free Press
Last Updated: January 28, 2011 12:17pm

More than half of Grade 8 girls in London-Middlesex still aren’t getting vaccinated against a virus linked to cervical cancer, disappointing health officials.

Last year, about 45% of local girls received the three doses paid for by the federal government.

“We’d like to be higher, obviously. We’d like to be at 100, but we’d like to be more toward 70%,” said Dr. Bryna Warshawsky, associate medical officer of health at the Middlesex-London Health Unit. The health unit started administering the Gardasil vaccine through a school-based program in 2007.

At the time, 39% of Grade 8 girls got the three-dose shots, each costing $150. Gardasil is designed to protect against four types of the sexually-transmitted human papilloma virus, two of which are blamed for 70% of cervical cancer cases.

Some in medical circles have opposed the vaccine program because of its costs and lack of long-term studies of possible side-effects on young women.

Patricia Armstrong, a Rodney mother, refused to give consent for her daughter to have the ­vaccine because she thought it was unsafe.

Instead, she encouraged her daughter, now 17, to get regular pap smears once a year and to avoid sexual contact — the main way HPV is spread.

“Cervical cancer is extremely, extremely uncommon,” Armstrong said, adding her aunt had stage 4 cervical cancer and survived.

“It’s one of the most treatable cancers out there. The chances of getting it are so slim. If you should happen to get a few cells that are abnormal, it’s very treatable.”

The health unit says cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women between the ages of 20 and 44.

There are 1,400 new cases every year in Canada and 390 Canadian women die each year, the health unit says.

Warshawsky said the vaccine has been proven to be safe and effective.

“There were no safety concerns when the vaccine was authorized for use and there continues to be no safety concerns,” she said.

But Armstrong cited the case of U.S. teen Gabby Swank, who developed inflammation of the central nervous system after being vaccinated against HPV.

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Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.