Starting in September, Ontario will expand its publicly funded human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination program to include boys, health officials announced Thursday.
It’s joining a handful of provinces, including Alberta and Prince Edward Island, that already provide free vaccines to boys. Manitoba is also slated to expand its vaccination program to boys in the fall.
Anti-vaccination movement means preventable diseases making a comeback
6 vaccination myths debunked
“Getting vaccinated at a young age is an important investment in long-term health. By expanding Ontario’s routine, school-based HPV immunization program to include boys and offering the program a year earlier, 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, said in a statement.
Right now, the HPV vaccine is offered free of charge to grade 8 girls in Ontario schools. The new changes would have all students vaccinated in grade 7.
READ MORE: HPV vaccine could be given in 2 doses, not 3, UBC research suggests
Girls starting grade 8 during next year’s transition will receive the vaccine, too.
The move to include boys in the vaccination program comes after mounting pressure from groups such as the Canadian Cancer Society, the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada and the Canadian Medical Association.
For its part, the Cancer Society said expanding Ontario’s program to include boys is a “big win” for cancer prevention.
“The time between initial HPV infection and development of cancer is about 20 years. We urge parents to get their sons and daughters vaccinated against HPV,” the organization wrote in a statement.
HPV can cause cancer in men and woman and infect three in four Canadians during their lifetime, according to the society’s estimates.
READ MORE: Doctors calling for increase in male HPV vaccinations
It’s tied to almost all cases of cervical cancer. But one-third of oral cancers are also caused by HPV.
HPV vaccination programs are rolled out in various ways across the country.
In B.C., for example, the program begins in grade 6, and 11 year olds are vaccinated once, then again six months later, and finally at the three-year mark.
Meanwhile, in Quebec, girls as young as nine years old are vaccinated once, again at the six-month mark and then five years later.
The conventional schedule is a first injection, a second two months later, and a third final dosage at six months.