Cervical cancer vaccine approved for use in Canada: What you need to know

TORONTO – The Toronto health authority will begin offering injections of the Cervical Cancer Vaccine when they receive final approval from Health Canada, the nation’s drug regulator, this week. Liz Wielinski, chair of the…

Cervical cancer vaccine approved for use in Canada: What you need to know

TORONTO – The Toronto health authority will begin offering injections of the Cervical Cancer Vaccine when they receive final approval from Health Canada, the nation’s drug regulator, this week.

Liz Wielinski, chair of the Toronto Health Council said that while the vaccine will only be available for a limited time, she anticipates that they will offer it for young children, many of whom may not have heard of the disease.

“The fact that we’re looking at a limited period of time is not because there’s too much to do or that there isn’t enough time,” Wielinski said. “That we just haven’t had the scientific data in a year or so.”

Health Canada announced on Sept. 27 that it would process the vaccine’s application in a month, and provide full approval within 60 days. Cervical cancer affects more than 3,500 Canadian women every year and kills about 200 of them.

The disease is most common in older women but can affect women of any age. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the disease “is extremely difficult to prevent,” and that one of the best options is screening, which is normally performed only after a woman has had two or more abnormal Pap smears. Some previous research suggests that the HPV vaccine would reduce the risk of cervical cancer by at least 20 percent for young women up to age 26.

While two consecutive courses of three shots of the vaccine are required, it has been shown to be safe and effective, the Canadian Cancer Society said. In the U.S., it has been approved in both girls and women.

The vaccine has been introduced to younger women in other countries, where it has received approval in eight countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, the Netherlands, Poland, Chile and Singapore.

The option of an HPV vaccine will be available in Canada as part of an immunization program that targets young women beginning in September 2019. Some studies suggest that girls should be vaccinated beginning at the age of 11. The recommended starting date for women 19 or older was already put off until 2020, but the approval of the vaccine for young girls means the approval for the vaccination of women below age 19 will be expedited.

Still, there have been some concerns raised about the vaccine, largely from parents concerned about side effects. The large campaign over the last decade to increase cervical cancer awareness has, in some ways, obscured the aspect of why the vaccine is necessary – for the protection of young women who may still be “impatient” about having a screening.

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