09/06/2013 16:01 EDT | Updated 11/06/2013 05:12 EST

B.C. extends HPV vaccine to women aged 26

British Columbia is expanding its HPV vaccination program to include women up to and including the age of 26.

The vaccine, which helps protect against the human papilloma virus that can lead to cervical cancer, is given in three shots.

The program first began in 2008 and offered free vaccinations to girls starting in grade six. Then last year a catch-up program was put in place to allow women between the ages of 19 to 21 to be vaccinated.

Dr. Monika Naus, the medical director for Immunization Services at the B.C. Centre for Disease Control says even more women will now be able to get the shots

"Now that we're over a year into the program, we can see that we will have sufficient vaccine supply to offer it to a broader age group of young women and we'd like to make sure that everyone who can benefit from this vaccine does," said Naus.

Those who are eligible can get the vaccine from pharmacists, doctors, a variety of clinics and public health units.

The introduction of the vaccine in 2008 for girls as young as 11 initially raised concerns it would promote sexual promiscuity because the human papilloma virus is sexually transmitted, prompting some parents to pull their daughters from the program.