Grade 6 boys to receive HPV immunization

HPV is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections

Beginning this September, British Columbia will become the latest province to provide the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination to boys, as part of B.C.’s publicly funded immunization program.

According to the provincial government, three out of four sexually active people will get HPV at some point in their lives; most don’t show any signs or symptoms and can pass the virus on to others without even knowing it.

“We need to do everything we can to help girls and boys grow up to be healthy adults,” said health minister Terry Lake. “We’ve targeted the program to Grade 6 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,” he added.

According to the provincial government, 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.

The vaccine will be provided as two doses given at least six months apart, as it is to Grade 6 girls.

“Vaccine safety monitoring continues to show the safety of the HPV immunization,” said Dr. Perry Kendall, B.C.’s provincial health officer. “It’s just as effective in preventing HPV-related cancers in males as it is in females, and the benefits are long lasting.”

The Gardasil 9 vaccine will be used in this HPV program. The vaccine provides protection against nine types of HPV. This includes 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.

The HPV immunization program will become part of the regular school-based immunization clinics, but can also be requested through health-care providers and local public-health units.