N.W.T.-based research on vaccination against HPV gets $2M

A joint effort between N.W.T.-based Hotıì ts’eeda and the University of Alberta will study culturally-appropriate ways to promote vaccination against HPV, the leading cause of cervical cancer.

Study will simultaneously collect data on perceptions of COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccination against human papillomavirus can prevent a large swath of cervical cancers. (Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press)

A Northwest Territories-based project will study culturally appropriate ways to promote vaccination against human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection so common, that 75 per cent of sexually active people will get it in their lifetime. 

HPV is the main cause of cervical cancer, but the vaccination rate for HPV sits around 55 per cent in the territory, compared to 92 per cent in the rest of Canada, a news release states.

The $2-million project is led by the University of Alberta's Dr. Sangita Sharma, Alberta Health Services' chair in Indigenous health, Hotıì ts'eeda's patient-oriented research unit and the N.W.T. government's health and social services department. 

The project will last five years, researching two N.W.T. communities and capture their perspectives on the HPV vaccine.

Hotıì ts'eeda chair John B. Zoe said this research into vaccine hesitancy is timely and the organization "is proud to support it."

"Ultimately, this work could reduce rates of cancer and improve vaccine uptake in general in the N.W.T.," he said.

Simultaneously, researchers will collect data on the COVID-19 vaccine and increase vaccine uptake across the territory, the release states.

"Consultations will take place on the land through intergenerational activities such as hunting, beading and hide-tanning, using a research approach known as 'Two-Eyed Seeing', which incorporates the strengths of both Indigenous and western ways of knowing," the release states.

HPV cost coverage varies

The Northwest Territories government will pay for the HPV vaccine for men and women up to the age of 26.

Anyone who is older must pay out of pocket for each of the three doses, the territory's website states, but depending on your health status, some of the vaccines listed including HPV may be provided for free.

This vaccine is not yet licensed for use in men over the age of 26. 

The vaccine protects against many types of HPV, preventing 80 per cent of cervical cancers, 80 per cent of anal cancers and 90 per cent of genital warts, according to a government fact sheet.

The vaccine is most effective before a person becomes sexually active. It can prevent, but will not treat an HPV infection. 

The research is set to start once all approvals needed from the University of Alberta and the N.W.T. government
have been received, the release states.