September 13, 2016 6:46 pm

Calgary leads Alberta for student HPV vaccinations; Edmonton below provincial average

A bottle of the Human Papillomavirus vaccination is seen at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine on September 21, 2011

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New provincial statistics show Calgary kids are way ahead of Edmonton when it comes to protection against the Human Papillomavirus (HPV).

According to Alberta Health Services, by the end of grade nine in the 2015/2016 school year, 76.8 per cent of Calgary boys and 84.4 per cent of Calgary girls had received all three doses of the HPV vaccine. That compares to 61.9 per cent of Edmonton boys and 70.0 per cent of Edmonton girls.

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Edmonton also lagged behind the provincial averages of 66.4 per cent for boys and 76.3 per cent for girls. The shots were given by AHS staff either in schools or in community clinics. Parental consent is required.

Senior medical officer of health Dr. Gerry Predy said participation in the free AHS immunization program could be better.

“In general I think (Alberta is) not doing as well as we should,” Predy told Global News, “but I think the numbers are probably respectable when we compare ourselves to other provinces.”

As for the difference between Alberta’s biggest cities, Predy said areas with a higher socioeconomic status, like Calgary, tend to have higher immunization rates overall.

“There are some barriers (to vaccinations) for people who don’t make as much money,” Predy said. “Part of that is parents’ ability to bring their kids in for an immunization. They may have jobs that they can’t get away from, or they may have transportation issues.”

Predy said AHS is looking at new ways to create equal access for low-income Albertans, like extending clinic hours in some areas or providing bus tickets.

HPV is sexually transmitted. The virus can cause various cancers, including cervical, anal, penile, vaginal and head and neck cancers.

A recent AHS study showed girls who had three doses of HPV vaccine had fewer abnormalities on Pap tests once they reached adulthood.

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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