Nfld. & Labrador

Offering HPV vaccine to boys finally ends 'sexist' policy, says tonsil cancer survivor

A cancer survivor is applauding Newfoundland and Labrador for increasing the province's hhuman papillomavirus (HPV) program to include young boys.

Former CBC journalist Glenn Deir developed, and overcame, cancer as a result of having HPV

Glenn Deir is a former CBC journalist and tonsil cancer survivor. He is applauding the Newfoundland and Labrador government for extending HPV vaccination to include Grade 6 boys. (CBC)

A cancer survivor is applauding the Newfoundland and Labrador government for increasing the province's human papillomavirus (HPV) program to include young boys.

"The Ball government has made a lot of mistakes, but they got this one right," Glenn Deir, former CBC reporter and tonsil cancer survivor,  told the St. John's Morning Show.

"What happened to me you don't want to happen to your little boy. I got tonsil cancer, and as a result of that I endured five weeks of radiation treatment. I've recovered from that, but you just don't want your little boy going through this."

On Thursday, the province's health department announced that starting this September, all Grade 6 boys in the province will be offered publicly-funded Gardasil, a vaccine that protects against HPV.

Health Minister John Haggie announced Thursday that starting this September, Grade 6 boys in the province will be offered Gardasil, a vaccine that protects against the human papillomavirus (HPV). (CBC)

The move is music to Deir's ears. He discovered he had cancer at the age of 49, something doctors told him was caused by having HPV.

Though he's now fully recovered, the radiation treatment has caused some permanent damage to his salivary glands, requiring him to constantly drink water to keep his mouth hydrated.

The end of a 'sexist' policy

Deir said like many who get cancer as a result of HPV, he had no idea he had the virus until it was too late. He said most people will pick up HPV and shed it, but men especially run an increasing risk of developing throat and mouth cancer if they contract HPV.

The Canadian Cancer Society has been lobbying for years to have the HPV vaccination program expanded to include both boys and girls. (Jae C. Hong/Associated Press)

Girls in the province have been offered the vaccination against HPV since 2007. Deir said not extending that to boys likely means a certain cohort of men may now develop cancer later in life, because many parents simply couldn't afford to pay the $500 vaccination cost out of their own pockets.

"This was a discriminatory and sexist policy that thankfully has been removed," he said.

"It was a stupid policy because it did nothing to protect gay men. It did nothing to protect men who have sex with women who are not vaccinated. It made all kinds of ridiculous assumptions — but thankfully somebody in the health department has decided it was a bad policy and [it] had to change."

With files from St. John's Morning Show

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