HPV, Vaccines and Gender: Policy Considerations

Monday, July 26 2010

Canadian Women’s Health Network

Cancer prevention remains a high priority for women and men in Canada, and critical steps for cancer prevention are identifying and eliminating the causes of such diseases. The federal government's recently-announced $300 million investment toward a program for vaccinating girls and women with the currently available human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, Gardasil (manufactured by Merck Frosst) framed by some as a way to prevent cervical cancer in Canada, has generally been welcomed by a wide range of commentators. The policy commitment to improve the health of women and girls is laudable and emerging research about the effectiveness of immunization in reducing HPV prevalence is promising.

However, although HPV infection is necessary for the development of cervical cancer, and while evidence suggests that Gardasil may prevent primary infection with HPV types 16 and 18 (currently thought to be a necessary cause of about 70 per cent of cervical cancer cases), we propose that these facts be assessed within a broad context, which at this moment contains many unknowns, before immunization policies are developed and implemented. In this paper, we summarize some of the major questions and concerns that need to be addressed before there is a full-scale roll-out of an HPV vaccination program.

To read the full paper: www.cwhn.ca/PDF/CWHN_HPVjuly30.pdf (PDF 238k/19p).

A summary of this paper entitled, “Human Papillomavirus, vaccines and women’s health: questions and cautions,” appears in the 28 August 2007 Canadian Medical Association Journal; a pre-released version can be found online now at: http://www.cmaj.ca/cgi/rapidpdf/cmaj.070944v1 .

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