The B.C. government has announced it will expand its human papillomavirus immunization program to cover vulnerable boys.
Starting in September, boys and young men up to age 26 who are at a higher risk of contracting the virus can receive the HPV vaccine at no charge. "The human papillomavirus virus is the most common sexually transmitted infection," Health Minister Terry Lake stated in a press release. "It can lead to serious health problems and could develop into an HPV-related cancer." The province describes at-risk boys and young men as "those who have sex with males or who are street-involved."
"Among males, men who have sex with men carry a disproportionately high burden of HPV infection and a significant burden of HPV-related cancers," stated Dr. Gina Ogilvie, Canada research chair in global control of HPV-related disease and cancer.
Currently, the HPV vaccine is provided free in B.C. to girls in Grade 6. According to the government press release, girls-only HPV vaccine programs where more than 50 per cent of girls are vaccinated protects heterosexual boys "but has little to no impact on boys and young men who are at higher risk."
This new HPV program will use the Gardasil vaccine, which the province says protects against HPV infections that cause about 70 per cent of cervical cancers, 80 per cent of anal cancers and other cancers of the mouth, throat, penis, vagina and vulva The vaccines will be offered through public health units, specialized clinics and programs for street-involved youth.