Cervical cancer vaccine awaits approval

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By Chi Nguyen

GARDASIL, a new cervical cancer vaccination available in the United States, will likely come to Canada, but it’s not known whether the drug will be covered by OHIP or failing that RSU’s health and dental plan.

The vaccine would likely not be covered as soon as it’s approved for use in Canada, RSU vice president education Nora Loreto said. “It would really depend on how many students will use it,” she said.

The vaccine has been available in the U.S. since June, but it is currently being reviewed by the Canadian National Advisory Committee on Immunization.

The Food and Drug Administration approved GARDASIL in the U.S. and said that it is safe and effective. Although the vaccine has been in the works for almost 15 years, it has only undergone formal testing for the past four, and long-term effects are not yet known.

If approved for use in Canada, the vaccine will help prevent the majority of cervical concerns in young girls and women.

“Generally, I’m weary of injecting things into my body. I’d be very hesitant about it,” first-year arts and contemporary studies student Katia Dmitrieva said. “(I) would probably wait and see if a lot of other people are getting it. And nothing bad happens.”

No one knows when it is expected to come out, how much it will cost or whether it will be covered by OHIP said Gail Aiken, community outreach consultant of the Canadian Cancer Society.

NAC’s recommendations are expected to be released by next year, when the provinces will decide how the vaccine will be obtained by the public and how much it will cost.

Shanieka Wright, a third-year nursing student, is not worried about the cost. She said she would definitely be in line for the vaccine. “You look at it in perspective and balance your two options: cervical cancer as opposed to keeping some money?”

According to the Canadian Cancer Society and the CBC, GARDASIL boosts the human immune system, fighting and protecting against two strains of human pappilomavirus (HPV), which are responsible for 70 per cent of cervical cancer cases. The drug maker claims the medication will prevent 90 per cent of genital warts.

But, it will not protect against types of HPV that women have been exposed to prior to the vaccination.

The drug will be available to young girls and women between the ages of nine and 26, though ideally it should be injected before they are sexually active.

Cervical cancer begins in the cells of the cervix, and the most important risk factor of developing cervical cancer is through infection of HPV. The virus is spread through sexual contact, and half of all sexually active women are infected.

In most cases, the infection clears up on its own, but if it persists, it can develop into cervical cancer.

According to the Canadian Cancer Statistic 2006, an expected 1,350 cases of cervical cancers will be diagnosed by the end of this year, with an estimated 390 cancer-related deaths. Worldwide, it is estimated that there are 500,000 new cervical cancer cases, with 250,000 deaths.

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