World Immunization Week: Working toward an STI vaccine

World Immunization Week is held April 24-30, 2019, to promote the use of vaccines to protect people of all ages against disease. Vaccination has significantly reduced the burden of infectious disease around the world. British Columbia (BC) has always been a global leader in human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine research and continues to conduct valuable research in this field.

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Early in 2019, the WHO reported one of the 10 biggest threats to global health was vaccine hesitancy. Researchers from WHRI, BCCDC, UBC and various BC Health Authorities are currently conducting research exploring methods to address HPV vaccine hesitancy in particular. The findings of this research are expected to inform all programs in BC, and across Canada to improve HPV vaccine uptake rates. In addition, research is being conducted to explore alternate dosing options for the HPV vaccine, which could have significant effects on health system costs and uptake rates while still maintaining high efficacy.

Exciting research is also being done to investigate the effects of HPV vaccination in the province by examining rates of anogenital warts in males and females, and cervical dysplasia for women undergoing cervix screening. In addition, vaccine researchers, clinicians and public health leaders in BC have developed a consortium that will establish BC as a global centre for leadership in the emerging field of sexually transmitted infection (STI) vaccines.

STIs are a significant cause of morbidity, mortality and health system costs globally, and development of vaccines to protect against various STIs has the potential to address this burden. BC is at the forefront of emerging STI vaccine policy and research.

By Laurie Smith