The Northwestern Health Unit will be administering Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccinations to Grade 8 girls attending district schools this fall. HPV—known to be sexually-transmitted—is a main cause of cervical cancer in women. “This vaccination is important to the protection of our youth because through a few simple doses, we can help to prevent cervical cancer and that’s an exciting thing,” Arlene Lesenke, Clinical Services program manager for the health unit, said from Kenora. The process will be carried out much like the Hepatitis B shots administered to Grade 7 students, however, this particular vaccination will require three doses as opposed to two. The vaccination will be administered free of charge by public health nurses on a voluntary basis, with consent forms and information provided to parents and guardians ahead of time. “I want to encourage parents to sign the consent forms because this is a great thing we are starting with Grade 8 girls so they will be potentially protected young,” Lesenke noted. The Ontario government announced last week it was going forth with the free vaccination in schools to about 84,000 young women in Grade 8. The province will invest $117 million over three years in the program. “We have a secure contract to conduct the vaccinations for the next three years, and hopefully the government will see the benefits they are providing theses young women and continue the funding in the future,” Lesenke remarked. HPV is a common virus transmitted through sexual activity that causes genital warts and cervical cancer. Every year in Ontario, about 500 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and 140 die from the disease. The HPV vaccination has been on the market for about 28 months now and has been getting a lot of positive reaction form health officials. “We have been watching the vaccination on the market for the past year and have seen nothing but positives come from it,” Lesenke explained. During the time period where the vaccination has been available, women have been able to go to their doctor and ask for a prescription that could be filled at any pharmacy across the country for a cost of $140 per dose. When the vaccination first hit the market, like many new drugs, it wasn’t covered on any drug plan. But now it has been picked up by some plans. “It has been picked up by plans but most still don’t cover it,” Lesenke noted. “However, the longer it’s on the market, then more plans will start covering it.” Lesenke believes this move is essential to the prevention of cervical cancer and should reinstate public faith in the Ontario government’s concern for public health issues. “The Ontario government has been very progressive in ensuring the residents of Ontario have access to preventive measures such as vaccinations for chicken pox, meningococcal meningitis, and pneumococcal disease, and now HPV,” she said. “We are really excited about them moving forward with this vaccination in particular so quickly,” she added.