August 04, 2020

DAVIE VILLAGE POST Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada LGBTQ2+ Hub

Updated: HPV immunization for Some Boys Not All

Cost Effective Measures?   Why not all children?

Beginning this September, boys and young men up to age 26 who are at a higher risk of contracting human papillomavirus virus (HPV) can receive the HPV vaccine at no charge. This age limit is the same guidelines currently used for girls. If you are over the age of 26 you can discuss the immunization with your doctor. It is available for anyone at a cost.

I reached out to Laura Heinze Manager, Media Relations – Ministry of Health for some clarification in regards to today’s press release.  She added the following information: “At this time, all women in BC and vulnerable boys and young men up to 26 years of age are eligible for free HPV vaccine. This is consistent with the published literature that indicates that HPV vaccination is cost effective up to about age 25.  In B.C., we have targeted the ongoing immunization program at Grade 6 girls because the HPV vaccine is most effective when given before the onset of sexual activity.  The Gardasil vaccine is used in B.C.’s HPV program for both vulnerable boys and young men up to age 26 and for girls. At-risk boys, young men who have sex with men and parents who are concerned their sons may be vulnerable can arrange for the HPV immunization by visiting their local public health unit. This program will also be delivered through specialized clinics and programs for street-involved youth”. “Of course, if anyone in BC – male or female – would like to get vaccinated but is not eligible for the public program, we encourage them to speak with their physician, as they may be able to purchase the vaccine” she added.

B.C.’s publicly funded HPV vaccination program, which is provided to girls, will be extended to at-risk boys and young men – those who have sex with males or who are street-involved. Providing the vaccine for all girls protects heterosexual boys as well, but leaves at-risk boys and young men unprotected. This change will address that gap.

“The human papillomavirus virus is the most common sexually transmitted infection,” said Health Minister Terry Lake. “It can lead to serious health problems and could develop into an HPV-related cancer. Our vaccination program will help protect all young British Columbians from cancers and other diseases caused by HPV infection.”

“Among males, men who have sex with men carry a disproportionately high burden of HPV infection and a significant burden of HPV-related cancers,” said Dr. Gina Ogilvie, Canada research chair in global control of HPV-related disease and cancer. “The targeted expansion of B.C.’s HPV vaccination program is an important step to controlling the spread of HPV infections and ultimately HPV related cancers.”

“It is clear that some men are more at risk for HPV related cancers than are others,” said Dr. Perry Kendall, B.C.’s provincial health officer. “As most of these infections are vaccine-preventable, extending B.C.’s HPV immunization program to this at-risk demographic is a cost-effective way to provide protection to the people who need it most.”

The Gardasil vaccine will be used in this HPV program. Gardasil protects against infection from HPV types 16 and 18 that cause about 70% of cervical cancers, 80% of anal cancers and other cancers of the mouth, throat, penis, vagina and vulva. It also protects against infection from HPV types 6 and 11 that cause about 90% of cases of genital warts.

It appears that straight boys under the age of 26 will be protected because the straight girls have been immunized, but that is based on the belief the boys are straight.   Those young men who identify as gay or street involved can come forward and get the vaccine.  What if the “straight” boy decided he will identify as something else later in life?  It appears that this is a band-aid that will certainly help but it misses most boys and it appears money is the determining factor based on the cost effectiveness.

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