Five-year project examines how NWT can increase HPV vaccination

A vial of Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine is prepared in the Northwest Territories on December 31, 2020
A vial of Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine is prepared in the Northwest Territories on December 31, 2020. Photo: GNWT

More than $2 million will be spent on research into culturally appropriate ways of promoting HPV vaccines in the Northwest Territories, where uptake rates are far lower than elsewhere in Canada.

The money is being provided to University of Alberta researchers by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The funding will be spent over five years to find ways to address vaccine hesitancy in the territory, and will include a study of Covid-19 vaccine uptake.

The university’s chair in Indigenous health, Dr Gita Sharma, will lead the research alongside members of the NWT’s Hotıì ts’eeda research support centre and the territory’s Department of Health and Social Services.

HPV, the human papillomavirus, is a sexually transmitted infection that can cause cervical and other types of cancers. A vaccination against the disease has been approved and publicly available in Canada since 2006.



However, in a Friday news release setting out plans to spend the funding, researchers said the current HPV vaccine rate in the NWT is 55 percent – compared to 92 percent in other jurisdictions.

The project will “conduct research in two NWT communities to capture experiences and perspectives” relating to both the HPV and Covid-19 vaccines, that news release stated. Researchers will connect with community members through activities such as hunting, beading, and hide-tanning.

“Vaccine hesitancy research is timely, and Hotıì ts’eeda is proud to support it,” John B Zoe, chair of Hotıì ts’eeda’s governing council, was quoted as saying.

“Ultimately, this work could reduce rates of cancer and improve vaccine uptake in general in the NWT.”

The project is expected to begin once the university and GNWT have issued related research approvals.