Courtney Dickson, Roving Editor Ω
Three out of four sexually active people will contract human papilloma virus (HPV) in their lifetime, according to Health Link B.C. HPV is the leading cause of cervical cancer, which will kill 40 British Columbian women this year.
Women born in 1991, ‘92 and ‘93 are eligible for the free HPV immunization provided by the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control until they run out of the vaccine, which was purchased in April 2012.
Mike Huitema, pharmacist and owner of the Shoppers Drug Mart on Summit Drive, said there probably will not be an opportunity like this provided for women born in 1990 or earlier, due to benefit-to-cost ratio.
“As people are more sexually active, the rate of infection increases and the vaccine is not effective if already infected,” he said.
The vaccine is a preventative immunization, not a cure for those who have already contracted HPV.
Dr. Hilary Yoshida works at the TRU Clinic and is a believer in the vaccine.
“It ‘s very effective,” Yoshida said. “Canada is usually the last country to approve medication, so you know it’s safe.
“Cervical cancer is a cancer that we do see in young people,” she added.
The two most common HPV vaccines are Cervarix and Gardasil.
Cervarix is the vaccine that the B.C. government is providing and it protects against the two strains of the virus that are most likely to cause cervical cancer.
Gardasil prevents against four strains of HPV, including genital warts. Gardasil is safe and recommended for males.
According to cervarix.ca, the vaccine should be administered in three doses, with the second vaccination coming one to two months after the first, while the third vaccination should be taken approximately five months after the second. The website emphasizes that it is important to receive all three doses.
Patients are not guaranteed to receive all three vaccines for free, as the government could run out of the vaccine at any time. However, for the vaccine to be effective, one must receive all three on schedule.
Those who do not qualify for the free vaccine can still get the prescription. They just have to pay the sometimes-costly fee.
Some health care insurance providers may cover some or all of the cost.
TRUSU health and dental, provided by Green Shield, does not cover HPV vaccines.
The on-campus clinic at TRU located in Old Main is administering the vaccine to qualifying students.
Lee-Gaye Hicketts, medical office assistant at the TRU clinic, said approximately 50 students have taken advantage of the free vaccine at the clinic.
Some of the other pharmacies and clinics administering the vaccine around Kamloops include, but are not limited to, Shoppers Drug Mart (all three locations), Superstore, Wal-Mart and the Burris Clinic downtown.
Those receiving the free Cervarix vaccine do not have to pay an injection fee, but most pharmacies will charge an injection fee of $10 to $25 for those paying for Gardasil or Cervarix.