In the next few weeks, the free Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccinations will be open to boys in Grade 6.
B.C. joins a number of provinces who have already made the vaccines available, including New Brunswick, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador.
HPV is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections, often showing no physical symptoms but can lead to cancer.
Most sexually active men and women become infected with HPV at some point during their lifetime – or about three-in-four, according to the Ministry of Health. Most people clear the virus in about two years, but in a small proportion of those infected, the virus persists and can later cause cancer.
The vaccination was previously offered to Grade 6 girls, under the assumption that boys would be indirectly protected through herd immunity. Females born in 1994 or later who were not immunized in the school-based program can also get the vaccine.
In 2016, the Canadian Cancer Society found HPV-related oral cancers have risen dramatically in men and called for the vaccination eligibility to expand.
“The HPV vaccine is a proven and effective way to prevent many different types of cancer, and yet here in B.C. we are leaving a significant number of our boys and young men vulnerable to disease,” said Jenny Byford, advocacy lead of the Canadian Cancer Society, BC and Yukon, in a statement at the time.
“We believe everyone should have equal and affordable access to the HPV vaccine to prevent cancer, regardless of gender, sexual orientation or social status.”