HPV vaccine should be free for boys, says mother who paid $340

A B.C. mother wants the government to change its double standard when it comes to the human papillomavirus vaccine (HPV). Currently, the vaccine is provided for free for girls in Grade 6 while it is around $300 to $400 for boys.

The vaccine is free for girls in Grade 6, but costs more than $300 for boys

The HPV vaccine is free for girls in Grade 6 and for boys and young men who are at increased risk of HPV infection. (Jae C. Hong/Associated Press)

A B.C. mother wants the province to change what she calls a double standard when it comes to the human papillomavirus vaccine (HPV). Currently, the vaccine is provided for free for girls in Grade 6 while it costs $300 to $400 for boys.

"It's really quite ridiculous and cost prohibitive," explained Fiona Brinkman who paid $340 to vaccinate her son.

Brinkman also notes that while girls are vaccinated in B.C. schools in grade 6, vaccinating boys is far more complicated.

"You have to basically go to your doctor, ask for a prescription, go to pharmacist, fill in the prescription, take that vaccine you get, keep it in the fridge carefully until you are ready to go back to the doctor, go back to the doctor and get your son vaccinated. Then repeat the whole procedure again," she said of the HPV vaccine that requires either two, or three doses.

The human papillomavirus is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections. It can lead to cervical cancer, anal cancer and cancers of the mouth, throat, penis and vagina. The vaccine is most effective when both boys and girls are immunized before becoming sexually active, according to Immunize B.C.

The government recently announced boys under the age of 26, who are "vulnerable" to the virus can receive the HPV vaccine for free. The government defines "vulnerable" at risk-boys and young men as "those who have sex with males or who are street-involved."

But Brinkman says it's crazy to ask children to define themselves as "vulnerable" before they are even sexually active.

"Asking a 12-year-old who is still at the stage where they sort of think of sex as a bit weird to basically figure out if they will still be at risk later in life is really difficult," she said.

Provincial Health Officer Perry Kendall has said there isn't enough money to provide the HPV vaccine for free for all boys. The government has said that with the majority of girls being vaccinated, heterosexual boys will be protected.

To hear the full interview listen to the audio labelled HPV vaccine free for girls but not boys with the CBC's Rick Cluff on The Early Edition.


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