Vaccination against HPV strong in some provinces, lags in others

January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, and so to raise awareness, let’s talk about HPV vaccination.

The Human papillomavirus, HPV, is the number one cause of cervical cancer, and has been linked to anal, penile, vulvar, vaginal, head and neck cancers. According to the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, 1,350 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer, and 410 will die from it. However, this same organization is touting a very impressive goal: to eliminate the disease by 2040, with a target of 90 percent of 17-year-olds vaccinated by 2025.

So, with 2 years left to go, how is the elimination of cervical cancer going? There are some positive signs.

Since screening has expanded, cervical cancer incidence is on the decline. Vaccination uptake against HPV has increased, although it differs from province-to-province. Newfoundland leads the pack with over 91 percent of both girls and boys vaccinated, followed by PEI, Nova Scotia and Quebec. Ontario has just over 60 percent of the female population vaccinated. The Northwest Territories is last, with 57 percent of its population vaccinated against HPV.

However, like most things in recent times, HPV vaccination has been disrupted by the pandemic. With schools forced to close, immunization numbers are harder to come by after 2020. It has also been noted that vaccine uptake in indigenous communities continues to lag behind. However, as a whole, it appears the goal of CPAC is certainly within reach.

Vaccination is offered in schools across all provinces and territories, and is recommended by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization. Even in adulthood, both men and women can be
vaccinated against the virus until the age of 45.

If you’d like to read the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer’s plan to eliminate cervical cancer by 2023, click here.