Toronto’s micro-clinic program pushes for low-income women to get HPV vaccine

A push in the U.S. for people to get the HPV vaccine has resulted in cities like Seattle and San Francisco beginning to offer sliding scale “micro-clinics” where people can receive the vaccine free…

Toronto’s micro-clinic program pushes for low-income women to get HPV vaccine

A push in the U.S. for people to get the HPV vaccine has resulted in cities like Seattle and San Francisco beginning to offer sliding scale “micro-clinics” where people can receive the vaccine free without waiting in line. And now, Toronto is following the path, getting Toronto Public Health to offer the vaccine free to the low-income residents they say are hesitant to get the vaccine for their family’s health.

The micro-clinic idea was “inspired by Toronto Public Health’s ambitious goal of universal vaccination,” according to a press release by the Public Health Advocacy Institute of Canada. “Micro-clinics will be open after hours and across the city over summer break. The focus will be on outreach efforts and the 24-hour availability will help those who cannot get vaccinated early to make the connection to their community health provider,” according to the Public Health Advocacy Institute of Canada.

Toronto was chosen as a pilot program in 2014 for its growing population of lower-income residents and immigrants with limited English proficiency, according to a 2011 report on the city’s public health system. A press release by the International Vaccine Access Center at the University of Washington discusses that, “health officials predict a wave of immigrants in Toronto will increase the city’s number of confirmed unvaccinated adults by at least 20 percent over the next decade, potentially exposing children and adolescents to the virus, which can cause permanent brain damage.” The Micro-Clinic program aims to address that.

This announcement follows the recent launch of the Toronto Public Health Department’s initiative to encourage people to get the HPV vaccine in order to protect their health, especially those who are sexually active. They say the vaccine is particularly important for people, especially girls and women, who have sexual partners who may have been exposed to the virus.

“When I started pregnant, I didn’t know about the vaccine,” Keirlin Mulligan-Wilbraham, a mother of three girls, one of whom is less than 10 months old, told reporters in Toronto. “I didn’t know anything about it. My sister was vaccinated, and she recommended it to me,” she said, adding that she was reluctant to get the vaccine because she was worried that it could be unsafe for her children. But now that she knows it is safe, she says she’s “more willing to take the shot.”

The 2014 report says that six out of 10 women infected with HPV will get cervical cancer and one out of 20 will get genital warts. The HPV vaccine is recommended for women and girls aged 9 to 26, though as the University of Washington report notes, it is no longer only recommended for girls in those years, “possibly due to improved coverage and high uptake.” The agency says, “Perhaps most concerning is that HPV is a sexually transmitted infection that can persist for decades, without delay. Some health care providers say that misconceptions or fear about the vaccine is leading to unvaccinated girls and women remaining unvaccinated.”

Experts with Public Health Ontario say that, since the United States now has the third highest prevalence of HPV in the world, tracking trends in Toronto “will have direct implications for those countries that have the highest prevalence.”

Read the full press release here.

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