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HPV Vaccine Push In Canada And U.K.

Canada's northeastern Nova Scotia province is to launch a publicly funded vaccination program for the human papilloma virus or HPV, the leading cause of cervical cancer.

Beginning this fall, girls in seventh grade will be given three doses of the HPV vaccine over a six-month period as part of the province's school-based vaccination program.

The HPV vaccine will not be mandatory and will require consent — just like all public health vaccinations in Canada.

The province says the girls will be among the first in Canada to receive a publicly funded vaccination for HPV.

HPV, which causes genital warts and cervical cancer, is a common virus transmitted through sexual activity. Most HPV infections go away on their own, but some types cause persistent infection and create a risk for cervical cancer.

The HPV vaccine, which works best when administered before a girl becomes sexually active, is being pushed by other Western governments as a cost-effective way to prevent cancer cases falling on public health care systems.

In the United Kingdom, a government medical panel gave the shot for all girls between the ages of 12 and 13 an official endorsement Wednesday.

The government accepted the endorsement in principle, but said it was still unclear whether the vaccination program would be economically sustainable within Britain's socialized public health care system.

However, medical experts on the panel argued that the cost of the $500 vaccination — three shots over the course of six months — would be offset in the long run by a dramatic reduction in cervical cancer cases.

The British Broadcasting Corporation reported that the disease kills 274,000 women worldwide every year, including 1,120 in the U.K.

"This is a huge step forward in preventing cancer," Dr. David Salisbury, Director of Immunization at the U.K. Department of Health, told the BBC after the recommendation was made.