This September, British Columbia will be the latest province to begin providing the HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccination to boys as part of B.C.’s publicly funded immunization program.
“|We need to do everything we can to help girls and boys grow up to be healthy adults,” said B.C.’s Health Minister, Terry Lake.
“We’ve targeted the program to Grade 8 girls and now Grade 6 boys to better promote the broad coverage needed for effective herd immunity. The HPV vaccine is most effective when administered before a child is first exposed to the virus and will help protect them from HPV-related cancers and other serious health problems.”
Stephanie Sutton, a nurse at Nak’azdli Health Centre says that often, people are nervous at first with new programs such as this.
“For me it all boils down to what harm would this vaccine do to my body as compared to the long term harm that could occur without the vaccine which is far greater,” Sutton said.
“This is a preventative measure so why not provide boys with the armour they need before they are sexually active.”
According to the Canadian Cancer Society, 75 per cent of Canadians will have a HPV infection in their lifetime and some of these infections can lead to cancer including anal, penile, vulvar, mouth and throat cancers and cervical.
Men especially are two to four times more likely to be diagnosed with an HPV oral cancer than women.
The HPV vaccine was previously funded publically and available to females in Grade 6 only.
Males were not offered the vaccine unless there was an increased risk of contracting HPV.
Northern Health in B.C. says that three out of four sexually active people will get one HPV infection at some point in their lives. The more sexual partners, the more at risk you may be.
Most of those infected will show no signs and can pass the virus on to others without even knowing it.
Almost 200 women develop cervical cancer every year in B.C. and close to 50 women die from the disease according to Northern Health.
About 6,000 women developed high risk precancerous changes to the cervix, 110 people were diagnosed with anal cancer and 20 died from the disease and approximately 5,500 people developed genital warts from HPV.
The vaccine used is called Gardasil 9. It is estimated that this vaccine could prevent up to 90 per cent of these cancers.
“It’s just as effective in preventing HPV-related cancers in males as it is in females,” said Perry Kendall, B.C.’s provincial health officer.
“And the benefits are long lasting.”