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, Health Minister Terry Lake announced today.

Gardasil 9 Image/Business Wire
Gardasil 9
Image/Business Wire

“We need to do everything we can to help girls and boys grow up to be healthy adults,” said 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.”

B.C.’s HPV immunization program will be expanded to include Grade 6 boys in September 2017, to improve protection against a range of HPV-caused cancers that affect both females and males. 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. Furthermore, the cost of the vaccine has come down substantially, and Health Canada has approved moving from a three-dose to a two-dose series. As a result of these factors, a review of the cost-benefit analysis by public health officials supported the expanded coverage.

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. 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% 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% of cases of genital warts.

Vaccines, including Gardasil 9, are only approved for use in Canada if they are shown to be safe and effective. Since the HPV vaccine was approved, 175 million doses have been provided worldwide.