Starting this fall, immunization programs across the province will begin administering the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine to boys in Grade 5, with a catch-up program also being administered in Grade 9. While the province has been administering the vaccine to girls since 2008, this is the first year that boys will be included as part of the immunization program.
Alberta Health Services says that making the choice to administer the immunization to boys will save lives and reduce future health-care costs in Alberta. In particular, they note that the program is expected to prevent more than 400 cases of head and neck cancer in Alberta men, and they project a costs savings of $13.4 million over the long term.
HPV is a very common infection, spread through sexual contact, of which certain types contribute to almost all cases of cervical cancer. A recent study out of Alberta showed that 100 per cent of head and neck cancers in men under 40 were related to HPV.
The vaccine for boys is the same one that’s also given to girls, and it’s most effective when given before any sexual activity has begun. Boys and girls are given the vaccine only when consent has been provided, and offering the vaccine in a school-based setting ensures that all students in the age group are offered the opportunity.