Bioethics Blogs

The Ongoing HPV Controversy in Canada

Juliet Guichon calls upon readers to help parents receive accurate scientific information from publicly funded school boards about vaccination that can help their children avoid certain cancers.


For several years, citizens have worked effectively to help thousands of Canadian school children have easy access to vaccination against human papillomavirus (HPV), which is a sexually transmitted virus.

HPV infection causes nearly all cervical cancers, and cancers of the vulva, vagina, penis, anus, and throat (oropharynx). Two strains (“types”) of HPV, HPV16 and HPV18, are responsible for about 70% of the cervical cancers and an even higher proportion of the other HPV-associated cancers. Two other HPV types, HPV6 and HPV11, cause about 90% of genital warts.

Prevention of infection is the best method to prevent diseases, including cancer, that are caused by infection. A vaccine has been developed that prevents infection by four types of HPV: HPV6, HPV11, HPV16, and HPV18. This vaccine is known as the quadrivalent vaccine (because it contains non-infectious material from the 4 HPV types), and by its proprietary name, “Gardasil”.

HPV Canada

The HPV vaccine is highly effective in preventing infection, but does not treat established infection. To prevent infection, the vaccine must be administered prior to infection. All Canadian jurisdictions offer the vaccine at no cost to girls prior to Grade Nine. Prince Edward Island and Alberta offer it for free also to boys.

When the HPV vaccine was first available in school for girls, Roman Catholic Bishops in Ontario in 2007 and in Alberta in 2008 recommended to school trustees that the vaccine be banned from administration in Catholic schools, which are wholly publicly funded.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.