Prevent cancer in a single shot! (or 3)

In Feb. 2015, 4 reputable Canadian health organizations released a joint statement to decimate any doubt about the safety of the Human Papillomavirus HPV vaccine Gardasil:

  • The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC) <of which I am a member>
  • The Society of Canadian Colposcopists (SCC)
  • The Society of Gynecologic Oncology of Canada (GOC)
  • The College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC)

Celebration of Light, #Vancouver. Hasan AbdessamadGardasil, based on very extensive evidence available, is safe and remains one of the recommended actions for prevention of cervical cancer and other HPV associated diseases. Gardasil vaccine has also been deemed safe internationally by the Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety (GACVS) of the World Health Organization (WHO).

Their statement reads:

The Gardasil HPV vaccine has been used in more than 130 countries, with more than 175 million doses distributed globally. The vaccine has been in clinical use for 8 years and has been found to be both safe and effective in reducing pre-cancers and the high risk HPV lesions that lead to cancers of the cervix, the second most common cancer in Canadian women aged 20 – 45 years, along with several other HPV- related cancers affecting both men and women.

On April 1 2015, Gardasil9 became available in Canada.Along with Gardasil, Gardasil9 is indicated for use in:

  • girls and women 9 to 45 years of age for the prevention of cancers of the cervix, vulva, vagina, and anus and genital warts
  • boys and men 9 to 26 years of age for the prevention of anal cancer, precancerous or dysplastic lesions and genital warts
  • men 27 years of age and older who have sex with other men
  • men 27 years of age and older who are immunocompromised or HIV positive

90% of cervical cancers are caused by the one of the 9 HPV strains (6, 11, 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58) covered in Gardasil9 (Thus the name 9-valent). The original Gardasil was quadri-valent and covered only 4 HPV strains, namely 6, 11, 16, and 18. Gardasil9 covers strains .

We can now prevent 90% of cervical cancers caused by HPV. This is an incredible advancement in healthcare for women and a milestone in the fight against one cancer that used to be the leading cause of cancer death for women (stats from USA). In the past 4 decades, the burden of the disease decreased significantly as a result of cervical cancer screening using PAP smears (PAP tests) which could predict or detect cancer before occurring. The burden of cervical cancer has further dropped due to the worldwide adoption of HPV vaccination.

I do understand the position of the skeptics and the fear of the few from an unknown risk of vaccines or a long-term negative impact (similar to what happened with Thalidomide) but what I presented above is up-to-date highly-scrutinized info we are working with at this time. I am also aware of the thin line between succumbing to the rhetoric of profit-driven corporations versus adopting advancements in healthcare with positive impact. It is wise to nurture a critical mind and to make well informed decisions based on the best available evidence.

To the best of our knowledge and the current time, the benefits of HPV vaccination outweigh potential yet-to-be discovered risks, if any. Until a new piece of evidence arises, if ever, I strongly recommend this vaccine to my patients as well as to my own family and friends.

Check my previous posts about HPV:

Categories: Gynecology, Health

Tags: , , , , ,

2 replies

  1. For women and men who received the 3 dose quadrivalent vaccine …. what are options in terms of now getting the 9 strain protection? Is it too late? Is there a booster? Or does the whole vaccine series have to be repeated/can it be?


    • There is little research to help guide the answers. I am not aware of a booster, if you want the extended coverage of the 9 you will have to take the whole vaccine series. I would say, do not take the 9 if you already took the 4.


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