Beginning this September, British Columbia will provide the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine to boys.
Health Minister Terry Lake announced Friday the vaccine that was previously only targeted to Grade 6 girls will now also be available for Grade 6 boys.
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.
Lake says immunization coverage rates for the Grade 6 girls HPV program have not reached levels originally projected, and expanding B.C.’s publicly funded immunization program to include all Grade 6 boys will help ensure HPV vaccine coverage rates promote herd immunity.
A review of the cost-benefit analysis by public health officials supported the expanded coverage.
“Vaccine safety monitoring continues to show the safety of the HPV immunization,” said Dr. Perry Kendall, B.C.’s provincial health officer in a release. “It’s just as effective in preventing HPV-related cancers in males as it is in females, and the benefits are long-lasting.”
There were a number of advocates for HPV vaccine use in boys in B.C., including 13-year-old Nelson Roy who has been lobbying for the expansion of coverage for years.
WATCH: Thirteen-year-old HPV vaccine advocate Nelson Roy talks about why he wants the vaccine to be made available for boys like him.
The Gardasil 9 vaccine will be provided to boys as two doses given at least six months apart, as it is to Grade 6 girls.
The vaccine provides protection against nine types of HPV, including the types of HPV that cause about 90 per cent of cervical cancers and other HPV-related cancers such as cancers of the vagina, vulva, anus, penis, mouth and throat. It also protects against two types of HPV that cause about 90 per cent of cases of genital warts.
HPV is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections. Most don’t show any signs or symptoms and can pass the virus on to others without even knowing it. Most often an HPV infection will clear on its own, but for some people, HPV will not go away and cells infected with the virus can become cancerous over time.
The announcement comes on the heel of a study by the Canadian Cancer Society that found malignant tumours in the mouth and throat caused by HPV have risen dramatically among men and could surpass the rate of HPV-induced cervical cancer in women.
WATCH: “It’s a journey to hell and back.” Will Dove’s throat cancer was caused by an infection from the human papillomavirus, HPV. As Allison Vuchnich reports, a Canadian Cancer Society reports shows a dramatic increase in HPV cancer in men.