July 9, 2010
The HPV vaccine is offered free for Grade 8 girls in Ontario but parents will have to pay to have their sons vaccinated
“”We’ve gone into schools and we’ve vaccinated for three years now and we’re still only seeing about 47 per cent of our girls are choosing to be vaccinated in Grade 8.”
The Ontario government has made the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine available free of charge for any Grade 8 girl in Ontario who wants it, but what about the boys?
Health Canada has approved the use of the vaccine, called Gardasil, in young girls ages nine to 26 and also in young boys and men ages nine to 26. But the vaccine is currently only publicly funded for Grade 8 girls. That means anyone else who wants the vaccine has to fork over the $400 for the three doses.
Local Medical Officer of Health Dr. Rosana Pellizzari says the local health unit does not yet have a stance on whether or not the vaccine should be publicly funded for young men. She says the health unit follows the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NASI) guidelines. She explains that NASI meets several times a year to review emerging research and literature on vaccines and then makes recommendations to the Federal government on which vaccines should be publicly funded.
“There hasn’t been a NASI statement yet. I know NASI is currently updating its statement on the use of HPV and I am expecting they will make a statement related to its use in males,” says Dr. Pellizzari.
According to The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada, HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection. The Society states up to 75 per cent of Canadians who are sexually active will have HPV at some point in their lives although most infections are unnoticed and resolve spontaneously within 24 months.
Dr. Pellizzari says there are about 100 strains of HPV with some strains causing cancer while others cause genital warts. According to the manufacturer Merck, Gardasil helps protect against four serious strains of HPV: two strains of HPV that cause about 75 per cent of cervical cancer cases in women and two strains that cause 90 per cent of genital warts cases. The vaccine, that is given as three injections over six months, helps protect against 90 per cent of genital warts cases in boys and men ages nine to 26.
Dr. Pellizzari says HPV is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, which can mean sexual intercourse, but can also be transmitted without having sex.
“It’s possible to shed the virus from the skin. That’s why condoms aren’t completely effective in preventing HPV,” she notes.