P.E.I. urging more high-risk adults to get HPV vaccine

Prince Edward Island has one of the most aggressive vaccination programs to fight the human papillomavirus in the country, says P.E.I. Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison.

'We've embarked on a project really to increase our uptake in the adult population'

P.E.I. would like more high-risk adults to get the HPV vaccine, says Dr. Heather Morrison. (Mario Tama/Getty)

Prince Edward Island has one of the most aggressive vaccination programs to fight the human papillomavirus in the country, says Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison.

P.E.I. has an 85 per cent vaccine rate for girls and boys in Grade 6 and free immunization against HPV for high-risk adults.

The Canadian Cancer Society and Public Health Agency of Canada's 2016 report on cancer statistics released in October, with a special chapter on cancers linked to the human papilloma virus, has led to calls across the country to have boys included in vaccination programs — something P.E.I. has been doing since 2013.

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in Canada and can lead to several types of cancer. 

"We've embarked on a project really to increase our uptake in the adult population," said Morrison of vaccines not just for HPV but for pneumococcus, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough).  

'More and more evidence'

"I think there's more and more evidence through the years about the potential benefits of this vaccine," said Morrison. "I would want to give it to my children."     

'I would want to give it to my children,' says Dr. Heather Morrison of the HPV vaccine. (CBC News: Compass)

Women and girls between ages nine and 45, or men between nine and 26 are considered to be eligible for the free vaccine if they are having unprotected sex with multiple partners, have a history of anal-genital warts, or if they missed the vaccine in grade six.

Women between those ages who've had an abnormal pap smear are also eligible, as are anyone who is HIV-positive. 

The three-dose vaccine is also free for men of any age having sex with men.

"This vaccine reduces your chance of cervical cancer, anal-genital warts, but also cancers of the head and neck, and anal-genital cancers as well. And it helps protect not only yourself but also the spread of the disease from one person to another," said Morrison. 

With files from Laura Chapin