HPV data fails to flag aboriginal girls

Lack of monitoring vaccinations troubling

Winnipeg Free Press

By: Breanne Massey
Posted: 24/12/2010 1:00 AM |

More girls in Manitoba are getting vaccinated against the human papillomavirus that can cause cervical cancer.

However, nobody appears to be watching the vaccination rate on aboriginal communities despite rising concerns over cervical cancer rates for aboriginal women.

Manitoba Health statistics show 4,700 Grade 6 girls received the Gardasil vaccine during the 2009-2010 school year, a 16 per cent increase from the previous year.

But when asked for data on the vaccination rate for aboriginal girls, the federal and provincial governments funding and running vaccination programs against four strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV) could not provide that information.

Health Canada said data is collected by the Manitoba Immunization Monitoring System (MIMS), including shots given on reserves. But Manitoba Health said MIMS does not record information based on ethnicity unless aboriginal girls declare their status. That means that neither the province nor Health Canada monitor vaccination rates on reserves.

“Health Canada ensures that on-reserve First Nations and Inuit outside the territories have access to all routine immunizations as per provincial immunization schedules, including the HPV vaccine, Gardasil,” said a Health Canada spokesman. “All provinces have implemented HPV programs and are delivering these programs to First Nation girls living on reserve.”

The lack of tracking of aboriginal vaccination rates comes at a time when researchers are discovering that aboriginal women are three times more likely to develop cervical cancer than other Canadians. They are four times more likely to die of the disease. And they may be susceptible to different strains: A recent study found that aboriginal women in northern Quebec were exposed to different strains of HPV than commonly found elsewhere in that province.

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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.