Ontario extending free HPV vaccines to boys
Dr. Donald Brown holds the human papillomavirus vaccine Gardasil in his hand at his Chicago office Monday, Aug. 28, 2006.(AP / Charles Rex Arbogast)
Josh Dehaas, CTVNews.ca
Published Thursday, April 21, 2016 2:29PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, April 21, 2016 3:14PM EDT
Ontario has joined five other provinces in extending its publicly-funded HPV vaccination program to boys, which experts say will help reduce the risk of cancer in both males and females.
“Parents can celebrate that both their sons and daughters can now receive the HPV vaccine as part of Ontario’s school-based HPV immunization program,” the Canadian Cancer Society said in a written statement Thursday.
“The government’s decision to expand the program to include boys makes Ontario the sixth province in Canada to provide equal access to a vaccine that can prevent cancer,” the statement went on.
Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins announced Thursday that the province will provide the vaccine to both males and females, with the first doses administered in Grade 7, starting in September.
All provinces and territories offer the vaccine to girls, who are considered most at risk, but many experts have long argued that wasn’t good enough.
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada and Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization have both been pushing for boys to be vaccinated since 2007.
The vaccine protects against several strains of the extremely common sexually-transmitted human papillomaviruses (HPV), which infect an estimated three in four unvaccinated Canadians in their lifetimes.
In rare cases, HPV can lead to cancers of the cervix, anus, vagina, penis, head and neck. It also causes genital warts in men and women.
Quebec, for example, estimates HPV caused 347 cases of cancers in women and 201 cases of cancers in men between 2004 and 2007, plus 14,000 cases of genital warts in men and 14,000 in women.
Ontario’s Ministry of Health estimates that HPV causes 1,090 cases of cancer in that province each year, including 254 deaths.
Prince Edward Island became the first Canadian province to cover the immunization for boys, in 2013. The vaccine is offered starting in Grade 6.
Alberta has also offered the vaccine to boys and girls, starting in Grade 5, since 2013.
Quebec offers the vaccine to girls starting in Grade 4. As of September, it will also be offered to all boys, starting in fourth grade.
British Columbia offers the vaccine to girls starting in Grade 6, but only to boys considered “vulnerable,” such as those who have sex with men, who have HIV, or who are “street involved.”
Manitoba offers the vaccine to girls starting in Grade 6, and will extend coverage to boys starting in Grade 6, as of September.
Saskatchewan offers the vaccine for girls, starting in Grade 6, but only to boys with HIV.
Nova Scotia offers the vaccine for girls and boys, starting in Grade 7.
New Brunswick offers the vaccine to girls only, starting in Grade 7.
Newfoundland and Labrador offers the vaccine to girls only, starting in Grade 6.