Less than 24 hours after an advisory committee voted to give a way for doctors to administer two of the toughest vaccines against the human papillomavirus (HPV), the CEO of the Chief Medical Officer of Health for Ontario said she believes they will be approved and offered to children within a week.
Earlier on Monday, 15-member committee voted 16-2 that teens and young adults older than 25 years old should be given a combined cervical cancer-fighting vaccine at least once.
That recommended vaccination for teenage girls is part of a sweeping government program Ontario has already launched to put new and re-formulated vaccinations into every school-aged child’s portfolio. The program has been lauded by both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians, as well as the Canadian Medical Association, among others.
“We have very strong evidence that these are clearly beneficial to the entire adult population, particularly to the kids who are most at risk,” Dr. Lisa Cohen told The Daily Beast. Cohen has been involved in the development of the HPV vaccine.
“We’re going to provide them these vaccines—we’re going to do it quite quickly,” she said. “We expect that they will be provided for free to kids not just in the first two to three months but very soon thereafter. We expect to have them ready to use in that timeframe.”
There are currently not approved vaccines for women and girls over age 26. The HPV vaccines won’t be able to prevent the virus that causes cervical cancer, however, so the recommended vaccination schedule is contingent on other preventative vaccines already in use.
HPV, a sexually transmitted disease, is the most common form of sexually transmitted infection, affecting an estimated two thirds of young adults. The “Four Pillars” of the vaccine program include HPV vaccines, the human papillomavirus-2 (HPV-2) and genital warts vaccine Gardasil, and a vaccine for bacterial meningitis.
Since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that a single dose of Gardasil be recommended for all girls and women by the age of 11 or 12, it’s been nearly universally used in the United States. Gardasil is the most widely used vaccine in the U.S. and is required for kindergarten-aged girls to enter the National School Lunch Program.
Girls in Ontario will also have access to the vaccines through the vaccines for children program, which provides vaccines to children who qualify. (Vaccines for children can be purchased through the Ontario Medical Access Network, but are often not available without a referral.)
The addition of Gardasil v6 to the HPV vaccines were seen as a major win in the initial iteration of the Chief Medical Officer of Health for Ontario. The vaccine had been included in the program plan as an example of comprehensive, effective immunization policy. It would have gone beyond its standard content by giving a dose for human papillomavirus-2 (HPV-2), which is required for one in five HPV infections.
Dr. Cohen explained that she believes the program’s requirements for HPV-2 specifically is important because of the quality of the school-based offering of the vaccine.
“The vaccine is good enough to enable girls of all ages in Ontario to be vaccinated, but it’s even better because it’s based on school age rules,” she said. “So we can put vaccines into school settings in the most cost effective way for health care dollars.”