Eliminating cervical cancer in Canada

Solutions to increase HPV vaccination rates

Urgent action is needed to get Canada on track toward its target of 90% of 17-year-olds fully vaccinated with the HPV vaccine. To ensure equitable access to vaccination for all people in Canada, barriers and solutions to reaching under-vaccinated populations and individuals need to be identified, understood and addressed. Many solutions will have a broader benefit to public health by improving public access to and acceptability of health services like vaccines.

  • limited and inconsistent access to the publicly funded HPV vaccine, compounded by the high cost to privately purchase the vaccine;
  • low awareness and knowledge of HPV and the HPV vaccine and low confidence in the vaccine, particularly among parents and caregivers;
  • unique and distinct barriers to getting the vaccine among rural and remote communities; people with low income; recent immigrants; First Nations, Inuit and Métis; people of certain races or ethnicities; and 2SLGBTQIA+ people:
    • low trust in healthcare providers and the public health system due to historical and ongoing medical racism and discrimination;
    • lack of religious and cultural safety in the health system;
    • limited diversity and representation in the health workforce.
  • limited standardized data, including Peoples-specific and self-governed data for First Nations, Inuit and Métis populations, that describes who is and is not getting vaccinated for HPV across Canada;
  • inconsistent knowledge sharing across regions about HPV vaccination strategies that work well and those that don’t.
  • increasing access to the HPV vaccination by, at minimum adopting a “once eligible, always eligible” policy and providing alternative access points to the HPV vaccine outside of schools;
  • standardizing information about HPV, its role in cancer prevention, and the HPV vaccine across provinces and territories while promoting it in a community-specific and culturally competent way;
  • prioritizing trust-building between people and providers and between communities and public health (e.g., by partnering with community-based organizations, working with local leaders and community champions, and providing anti-racism education for healthcare providers);
  • regularly collecting and reporting vaccination rates at local and provincial/territorial levels, including race-disaggregated and Peoples-specific data to ensure health equity remains a focus;
  • evaluating interventions to improve HPV vaccination rates and sharing lessons learned across regions, provinces and territories to inform best practices.

HPV immunization is a safe and effective public health measure for reducing the spread of HPV. One of the best things we can do for women’s health is to boost immunization rates to ensure the next generation of Canadian women are cervical cancer-free.

Anne Pham-Huy, MD, Chair, Immunize Canada

Stories of progress

Increasing HPV vaccination rates among under-vaccinated people across Canada

The Urban Public Health Network (UPHN) is leading work with partners across Canada, including First Nations, Inuit and Métis organizations, to uncover barriers to human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination and implement community-specific solutions to increase uptake.

Hear from Dr. Thilina Bandara, Assistant Professor at the University of Saskatchewan’s School of Public Health, about UPHN’s work:

Building trust to improve HPV vaccine uptake in Alberta Métis Settlement communities

Alberta Health Services engaged Métis Settlement communities to explore the barriers and facilitators to HPV vaccine uptake. The findings revealed that there is a:

  • lack of awareness and knowledge about HPV and the HPV vaccine;
  • lack of culturally safe engagement by public health staff to foster trust in the healthcare system and HPV vaccine programming;
  • need to increase education regarding HPV and HPV vaccines for parents, care providers and youth.

Community Elders and Knowledge Holders noted that establishing trusting partnerships with communities is critical to improving HPV knowledge and awareness in support of vaccine uptake. There is a need for tailored strategies and resources to ensure increased education and resources to support parents, grandparents, youth and teachers. These engagements also highlighted the benefits of providing healthcare providers with knowledge and awareness of Métis communities.