Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Alberta May Include Boys in HPV Vaccine Program, Weighs Effectiveness, Cost

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Alberta May Include Boys in HPV Vaccine Program, Weighs Effectiveness, Cost

Article excerpt

Alberta may extend HPV vaccine program to boys

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EDMONTON - Alberta is looking at including boys in a free school vaccination program that protects girls from a virus that causes cervical and other types of deadly cancers.

The HPV vaccine was first offered to Grade 5 girls in the province in 2008. Since then, the province estimates about 61 per cent of girls between the ages of nine and 13 have received the shots.

This summer, Alberta's chief medical officer of health and other officials are to meet with their counterparts across Canada in Ottawa to discuss the medical effectiveness of the vaccine when given to boys.

"It is something Alberta is considering. But the decision will ultimately be based on evidence in terms of whether it works for boys or not," said Alberta Health spokesman Bart Johnson.

"And that is evidence that is going to be discussed between our chief medical officer of health and his counterparts across the country."

The vaccine protects against human papillomaviruses, which causes cervical cancer, head and neck cancers, anal and penile cancers and genital warts.

Last month, the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada urged provincial health ministers to include boys in their HPV vaccine programs.

The society has said extending the vaccine to boys would protect them against some cancers and genital warts. It would also cut the risk of girls becoming infected through sexual contact.

So far, Prince Edward Island is the only province that has announced it intends to extend its HPV vaccine program to boys.

Johnson said Dr. John Talbot, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, will make a recommendation to the province based on the national discussions.

The Alberta government would then make a decision weighing the pros and cons, including the cost.

Currently the province says it spends $3 million per year on its HPV vaccination program.

"This decision will be based on a careful consideration of that evidence as well as a cost-benefit analysis," Johnson said. …

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