The 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.
Today I’ve been reading the #WhenIWas trend on Twitter. A callout for girls and women to share experiences that will boost awareness of early experiences of sexism, sexual harassment and assault, it illustrates the horrific treatment of girls that are cast as normal parts of growing up. Tweets mocking the movement remind me of #yesallwomen and show […]
I woke up to find the internet is on fire in the reproductive health world. Ob-Gyn Dr Jen Gunter posted the powerful piece Check your privilege and your facts before discussing sex selective abortion in response to Dr Brian Goldman’s post Fetal sex selection apparently happens in Canada. Gunter says we need to dig deeper when we start […]
The March 31 announcement by Prince Edward Island Premier Wade MacLauchlan that abortion care will soon be available on PEI is good news. The province hasn’t allowed surgical abortions since 1982, and women have had to travel to other provinces to access reproductive healthcare. This presents significant barriers for women who don’t have the financial resources […]
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