HPV vaccine for boys coming to Quebec

The province is expanding its human papillomavirus vaccination program to include young men and boys, who are more at risk of HPV-linked diseases than previously thought.

Vaccination program will be offered to boys in Grade 4 starting in September

The government program is expanding to include young boys and men starting in January 2016. (Mario Tama/Getty)

Quebec is expanding its human papillomavirus vaccination program to include young men and boys.

Starting in January, any man under the age of 26 who has sexual relationships with other men can obtain the HPV vaccine for free from the government.

Then, starting in September, boys in Grade 4 will start receiving the vaccine.

"I think this is such fantastic news because HPV is really a problem in our community. Our teenagers and young adults are getting infected by this," said Montreal pediatrician Dr. John Yaremko.

"It leads to warts, it leads to cancers down the road, and before we used to count on the boys being protected because the girls were getting vaccinated, but there are so many girls who may not be vaccinated for all types of reasons. Now we can protect the boys by vaccinating our boys and making sure they can avoid having complications from this infection," he said.

HPVs are sexually transmitted infections that can lead to the development of certain cancers, including cervical cancer.

When the vaccination program first started in Quebec, it targeted girls and young women with compromised immune systems.

Since then, studies have shown the vaccine can also prevent certain cancers and other health problems in men.

According to Yaremko, every year about 800 men and 3,500 women will get a cancer because they were exposed to HPV at some point in their past.

Public Health Minister Lucie Charlebois said in a statement that "infections caused by HPV represent a significant public health problem."

The aim, she said, is to "provide direct protection to all men, who are more affected by these diseases than previously thought, and better protect the entire population."

Several other provinces, including Manitoba and B.C., have recently added males to their HPV vaccination programs. 

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