More Queen’s students take a shot at HPV vaccine

Public Health worries about low takeup as University health services order more Gardasil

Health Counselling Disability Services director Dr. Mike Condra says the HCDS serves 60,000 students every year.
Health Counselling Disability Services director Dr. Mike Condra says the HCDS serves 60,000 students every year.
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As public health officials worry about too few Grade 8 girls taking advantage of the HPV vaccines, hundreds of Queen’s students are paying for the shot at Health, Counselling, and Disability Services (HCDS).

HPV is a common virus that can lead to cervical cancer in women. In Ontario, more than 500 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year, and 140 people die of it annually.

In July 2006, Health Canada approved the Gardasil vaccine to protect women against HPV.

There are more than 100 different strains of the HPV virus and the vaccine covers the four predominant strains that account for 70 per cent of cervical cancer and 90 per cent of genital warts.

Shortly afterwards the federal government created a $300-million vaccination trust fund for the provinces to pay for vaccines.

Last summer, the Ontario government announced it’s funding vaccinations for all Grade 8 girls starting in September. For women who aren’t in Grade 8, the three doses of Gardasil needed for the vaccine to be effective cost $400, according to hpvontairo.com.

Through HCDS, the vaccine in three doses is available for$450.

Under the AMS Health Plan, there is 80 per cent coverage for Gardasil. The vaccine is administered in three doses for a total cost of approximately $360 to be paid by the AMS, and $90 by the student.

HCDS Nurse Co-ordinator Janet Elvidge said she was surprised by the high number of Queen’s students getting the vaccine.

Elvidge said the data for the number of students who have received the vaccine haven’t been compiled yet, but said 500 doses have been administered since September 2006.

“I thought the cost would deter women from getting the vaccine. We used to be ordering six doses with each order; now we are ordering up to 60 at a time,” Elvidge said.

It’s a different story in the Kingston community, as turnout numbers for Grade 8 students have been lower than expected.

Dr. Ian Gemmill, medical officer of health for Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox and Addington, said between 40 per cent and 50 per cent of Grade 8 students in the Kingston area are getting vaccinated “My target is 100 per cent,” he said, adding that he thinks the numbers are so low because of rumours about the vaccine’s side-effects.” According to an Oct. 12 Kingston Whig-Standard article, 142 of 336 girls in the schools visited by public health nurses opted to get the series of three vaccine injections since the program began this September.

“We are hearing students saying things like, ‘We heard this vaccine can kill you,’ or that this vaccine can prevent you from getting pregnant. These are just absolutely not true,” Gemmill said.

HCDS Director Dr. Mike Condra said HCDS hasn’t heard of any negative effects from the vaccine from Queen’s students.

Elvidge and Gemmill said the only serious effects from the vaccine could be a fever, rashes or hives, but these rare side effects can occur with most vaccines.

One of the main issues raised by those skeptical about the vaccine is that its implementation occurred too quickly, without enough time for proper research.

“It’s been studied for safety; it wouldn’t have been licensed if the data hadn’t been there,” Gemmill said. “It wasn’t too fast from a science point of view—it was perhaps too fast from a program funding point of view.”

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