Ontario expanding HPV vaccination program to include boys
Boys will be able to get free vaccinations against HPV infection and the cancers that can result from it starting in September.
Health Minister Eric Hoskins said the human papilloma virus program — now limited to girls — is being expanded to all students in Grade 7.
“The province will be protecting more youth from HPV-related cancers at an age when the vaccine can be most effective,” Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, added in a statement Thursday.
Hoskins said vaccinations for boys is an “evidence-based decision” and “the right thing to do” because HPV causes an average of 254 deaths and almost 1,100 cases of cancer annually in the province.
The vaccine, commonly known as Gardasil, has been approved by Health Canada and is recommended by the country’s National Advisory Council on Immunization.
Girls in Grade 8 are now covered by the vaccination program but all children will be able to catch up on any missed doses until the end of Grade 12.
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection and can lead to cervical, genital and throat cancers, most typically between the ages between 40 and 70.
That is why medical officials recommend giving the vaccinations — which come in a series of shots — to children before they become sexually active.
It’s estimated that preventing those cancers could save the health-care system millions and millions of dollars down the road.
The vaccine has stirred controversy in some circles because of perceptions it encourages sexual activity.