Alberta will join other provinces in launching a program to protect girls from a virus that causes cervical cancer.

All girls entering Grade 5 will be offered the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine starting in September 2008, with the program being expanded to include Grade 9 girls starting in September 2009, Alberta Health announced Thursday afternoon.


Alberta has announced that girls in Grade Five will be offered the HPV vaccine this fall, with girls in Grade 9 joining the program in September 2009. ((CBC))

"The recently approved HPV vaccine will help protect the health and future generations of women in Alberta from an illness that has affected far too many until now," said Raj Sherman, parliamentary assistant to the minister of health who made the announcement at Government House in Edmonton.

It's estimated that about 1,300 women contract the sexually transmitted virus each year in Canada. About 400 women die of cervical cancer annually, with it being the second most common type of cancer for women between the age of 20 and 44.

Alberta Health says the vaccine has been proven safe and effective when given early. It says local health authorities will administer the series of three shots, and parents will be asked for their consent before their child is immunized.

The other nine provinces have all announced HPV vaccine program, with British Columbia joining the list earlier this month.