In an effort to keep Manitobans healthy and reduce the number of new cancer cases, the province’s Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Immunization Program will be expanded starting next year to include both males and females.
Health Minister Sharon Blady said the province’s vaccine program will be expanded next year to include Grade 6 and Grade 9 boys as part of Manitoba’s cancer strategy. Girls in Manitoba have been offered the free vaccine in school since 2008.
“Offering the HPV vaccine to males is a step in the right direction to reduce transmission and protect Manitobans from HPV-related cancers, regardless of gender,” Blady said in a statement Wednesday.
Human papillomavirus – or HPV – can cause cervical and other forms of cancer. A recent study suggested vaccinating boys can prevent transmission of the virus and save millions in health-care costs.
The study by Toronto researchers, published in the spring, suggested up to $12 million might have been saved if all 12-year-old boys in Canada had been vaccinated in 2012 because there would have been fewer cases of cancers of the mouth and throat.
Sri Navaratnam, president and CEO of CancerCare Manitoba, said the majority of people who have HPV don’t develop cancer. But the vaccine provides protection from high-risk types of HPV linked to cancers affecting both men and women, including cervical, head and neck.
“Vaccinating boys with the HPV vaccine will help prevent transmission of the virus and help reduce the incidence and mortality of all HPV-related cancers,” she said.
Prince Edward Island and Alberta are already offering HPV vaccine to boys as well as girls. Nova Scotia has announced it plans to do the same.
Blady said the free immunizations will be voluntary and parents will be asked for consent.