HPV vaccine at HCDS

Students can access the HPV vaccine, which helps to reduce the risk of contracting at least one strain of the disease

A new vaccine for human papillomavirus (HPV), one of Canada’s most commonly sexually transmitted infections, has been available for women and men at Health, Counselling, Disability Services since September 2006.

The vaccine, Gardasil, is available on campus at the LaSalle building at 146 Stuart St. and the dosage omes in a sequence of three: you receive your second dose two months after your first, and you eceive your third dose four months after your second.

“I really haven’t heard of any serious side effects so far; it seems very safe,” said Dr. Claudia Peters, a doctor at Health, Counselling and Disability Services. The biggest problem for students, Peters said, may be the cost. “It’s available here, we didn’t supply it at first because it is $150 per shot,” Peters said.

Students can be covered for some of the cost, Peters said.

“What I’ve been suggesting is that the Queen’s AMS insurance covers $150 for vaccines per year, so it’s possible you might be able to straddle two years. So for the students who are coming back next year they could get their two shots this year and get their third hopefully six months later covering the
next insurance year,” Peters said.

The end of the current insurance period is the last day of August. Gardasil prevents two high-risk strains and two low-risk strains of HPV. The virus can be transmitted by an infected person through vaginal, oral or anal sex, or close skin-to-skin contact. Although condoms can help prevent the spread of HPV, any areas left uncovered by a condom are susceptible. According to Health Canada, the two high-risk strains of HPV are responsible for 70 per cent of cervical cancer; the two low-risk strains are responsible for 90 per cent of ano-genital warts.

Health Canada estimates HPV affects 75 per cent of Canadians in their lifetime. “This virus is very contagious, just as contagious as other warts you can walk around the pool and pick up,” Peters said.

The activity of the virus could also be influenced by other factors like genetics or age. Smoking for example, increases your chances of developing cervical cancer, Peters said.

She added the vaccine doesn’t negate the importance of Pap smears because the vaccine doesn’t cover all HPV strains, just the most common. The vaccine’s quick approval by Health Canada may be the reason it isn’t covered by OHIP or insurance yet, Peters said.

“The [insurance] companies are just catching up here because they weren’t forewarned.”

Peters said the popularity of the drug has caused a lot of students to come into HCDS with requests, in part due to the marketing of the vaccine. Since September, HCDS has administered 115 vaccinations.

Although currently only approved for women aged nine through 26, Peters said HCDS is still giving out the vaccine to older women and to men. Peters said there are good reasons why men would be interested. “They want to protect their partner. I assume that they would be protected from being a carrier,” she said.

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