MANITOULIN—Beginning this fall, all students in Grade 7, boys and girls alike, will be included in the provincial publicly-funded human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination program.
“For Ontario, the HPV program was only publicly funded for Grade 8 females,” Justine Mansourian-Christakos, Sudbury and District Health Unit communicable disease nurse, told The Expositor. “Come September, both males and females will be eligible for the vaccine in Grade 7.”
While not mandatory, Gardasil, the vaccine against HPV types 6, 11, 16 and 18, is a ‘recommended’ vaccine by the province. Ms. Mansourian-Christakos explained that students in Grade 7 will receive a consent form that goes home for the parents to sign with the vaccine given in-school.
“It’s best to do it before actually having exposure,” she noted.
Ms. Mansourian-Christakos said that sexually transmitted HPV is not gender specific. HPV can cause cervical, vulvar and vaginal cancer, abnormal and precancerous cervical, vulvar and vaginal cells, anal and penile cancer, abnormal and precancerous anal lesions and genital warts. It also helps guard against some head and neck tumours. While there are over 100 types of HPV, the four types covered in the vaccine are the cause of most cancers and warts, the nurse noted.
“The more people vaccinated the better,” Ms. Mansourian-Christakos said, noting “herd immunity”—the more members of the public that are vaccinated, the better it is for the population.
Ms. Mansourian-Christakos said the disease fits into the “stealth” category as it is often undetected until it is too late.
However, she added, Gardasil is in no way a one stop shop in terms of protection and does not replace cancer screening, such as a Pap test.
“It’s not a treatment either—if you’ve already been exposed, the vaccine will not help you,” Ms. Mansourian-Christakos said.