Samantha is still a little confused about the HPV Vaccine, even though she’s about to get the third and final shot next month.
And the local student is not alone.
“Isn’t it for, like, some kind of disease when you get intimate with someone? Or something? ” she said, after an awkward pause and a few muffled giggles.
Her friend Nikky was also unsure.
“It’s to protect you from getting something. I don’t really know, I don’t remember.”
The two grade 8 girls will receive the vaccination free, as part of a province wide program to prevent cervical cancer.
Even some adults find it hard to understand exactly what the vaccine does. In a phone interview, Winsley Belille, principal of Galloway Road PS said that his school chose not to hold assemblies because the vaccine only affected a small number of students, “the grade 7 and 8 classes.”
Gardasil, is actually a three-dose vaccine recommended for females ages 9 to 26.
“My mom didn’t want me getting something, like a disease because she had it. And it’s free, instead of paying like $500 for the shot,” Samantha said.
A Toronto school board official says schools are not required to hold an assembly explaining the vaccine. Students may speak to a guidance counselor for more information, or refer to the handouts provided by Toronto Public Health.
While the vaccine does not protect against sexually transmitted infections, it is almost fully effective against four strains of HPV, including types 16 and 18— the causes of 70 per cent of cervical cancer cases.
Additional information about the vaccine and a full schedule for the program are available online in a number of different languages, including Farsi, Chinese, Korean, and Russian.
Nurses are scheduled to be at Military Trail PS on April 1, Rouge Valley PS on April 10, Joseph Howe PS on May 23 and Joseph Brant PS on May 28. If your grade 8 girl has missed the first two shots, you can still get them free at one of four clinics throughout the city.
Parents with older girls have more time to decide whether they will get vaccinated, but it is likely they will have to pay $400-$500, unless it is covered by insurance. They can get it through their family doctor, gynecologist, or a clinic such as the one at Women’s College Hospital.
“It [Gardasil] is currently not on site, but the clinic is looking to purchase some so it can be available for our clients in the near future,” said Carol Klupsch, clinical director of Westhill Community Services.
Klupsch says their clinic currently offers several services to help educate parents and young ladies. Both health promoters and youth workers are available for one on one counseling and to explain information provided by Toronto Public Health.