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HPV Vaccine Boost for Boys

syringe_morguefileThe Canadian Medical Association has recommended that HPV vaccine programs should be routinely offered to boys across Canada.  The initial years of girl-only programming worked on the idea that this would provide sufficient herd immunity  (the level of protection from disease in a susceptible population),  but it doesn’t work to meet the needs of everyone. Making the vaccine available to both sexes is a great  public health idea.

What’s the problem with vaccinating girls only? For one thing, HPV vaccine uptake isn’t as high as  for other immunizations,  which compromises herd immunity. There is also the outright heterosexism of female only programs that assume males will be protected if females are protected. This isn’t the case- not everyone has sex with the opposite sex.  Because  men who have sex with men are at high risk of HPV related diseases, the CMA suggests all provinces should expand HPV vaccine availability.

So far four  provinces include boys and men. Ontario recently announced it will be funding HPV vaccines for boys, joining Alberta, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.   Here in BC it’s routinely offered to girls and women  and to some groups of boys and men.

This post suggests that making the HPV vaccine available to males is not only ethical but financially wise.  Using US based stats, it links to a study that shows potential cost savings to healthcare overall if more people get vaccinated.  Granted, healthcare costs and coverage in the US are different than here, but one thing that affects uptake rates is true across both countries- the incorrect belief that a vaccine for a sexually transmitted infection might actually prompt sexual behaviour. Studies have proven this wrong,  but the stigma still floats around, and this may contribute to lower use of HPV vaccination programs.  Another problem is that doctors may be concerned about pushback from parents because the vaccine is related to a STI.

Expanding vaccine availability to boys is the right thing to do, and the CMA’s support could help move this across the country so that boys everywhere can have the same level of protection.

 

 

Janet  |  @janet_madsen

 

 

Image: Morguefile

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