HPV vaccine program now offered to Grade 5 boys in Alberta

Parents of boys in Grade 5 now have the option of having their sons vaccinated against the HPV virus.

HPV vaccine program introduced in 2008

Parents of Alberta boys in Grade 5 now have the option of having their sons vaccinated against the HPV virus.

HPV is a common infection passed through sexual contact. In 2008, the Alberta government introduced the HPV immunization program for all grade five girls.

Alberta Health Services hopes the vaccine will prevent the more than 400 cases of head and neck cancer among men in the province. (CBC)

The provincial government now expects to vaccinate about 30,000 boys across the province this year.

Dr. James Talbot, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, says this is a significant step for the province.

“I mean all I really need to say is a vaccine that prevents cancer. That’s as good as it gets,” Talbot said.

It is estimated that more than 70 per cent of people will have at least one HPV infection in their lifetime. Certain strains of the virus can cause cervical cancer, or head and neck cancers in men, according to Alberta Health Services.

The vaccination rate is about 60 per cent among all Grade 5 girls, but Talbot expects that figure to increase now that the vaccine is available to boys.

“Some of the studies we’ve done in terms of surveys of parents have indicated that if boys were immunized, more parents of girls would get their girls immunized because it would normalize getting the vaccine,” Talbot said.

Alberta Health Services hopes this vaccine will prevent the more than 400 cases of head and throat cancer among men in the province.

A vaccine catch-up program will also be offered to boys in Grade 9.

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