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HPV Vaccine for Boys: The Rational for a Country-Wide Policy

by CAFE Research Volunteer Hyginus Ihemere

The Canadian Association for Equality (CAFE) will like to join in highlighting the facts behind the push for administering Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine to all boys in Canada as done in some other developed countries. In the Canadian health system, disease prevention is encouraged by all stakeholders. It is therefore imperative to apply preventative measures to all at risk individuals irrespective of their gender. Some preventative measures involve the use of vaccines in targeting vaccine preventable diseases such as HPV. Infections linked to HPV is very common and affects about 80% of the population (Schmeler and Sturgis 2016). HPV is implicated in disease conditions that affect different parts of the body: the genital skin and mucous membranes as well as the oral cavities; of which infections are transmitted through skin contact or sexually (National Cancer Institute n.d). Current HPV vaccinations in most Canadian provinces target mainly a proportion of the population, and such health policy go against the overall objective of ensuring a healthy life for all Canadians regardless of their gender.

Some studies support the need for HPV vaccination to occur across board irrespective gender and they highlight the rationale behind a policy that ensures that HPV vaccination which is currently a girl thing in some Canadian provinces is also made available for boys. Shum, Kelsberg and Safranek (2015) document that HPV vaccination is known to prevent more than 50% of early forms of anal cancers in at risk groups and also prevents over 60 % of all external genital cancers in all men irrespective of sexual orientation. A study in Manitoba using Physician records and hospital discharge data from 1990 – 2011 highlights the reversal in the incidence of Anogenital warts (AGW), with males having a higher incidence than females from the year 2000 to 2011 (Thompson et al. 2016).

With such evidence-based study from Manitoba together with other studies that support the importance of administering HPV vaccines to boys, there is therefore the need for a country-wide policy that ensures the provision of HPV vaccines for all boys as currently done in Prince Edward Island, Alberta, Nova Scotia, Ontario, and British Columbia; with Manitoba and Quebec joining in September 2016 (Dehaas 2016). Such policy would be a way to implement the 2012 recommendation by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) which advised that HPV vaccination should be extended to boys aged 9-26 to serve as a protective measure for HPV-associated warts and cancers (Perez et al. 2016), which is also in line with recommendations from the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada (SOGC) (Dehaas 2016). Such a policy would be beneficial to men who would be free from the HPV-associated infections and also serve as a cost saving measure for the provinces because it costs more to treat HPV-associated diseases than to prevent them.

References:

Dehaas, J. (2016) ‘Ontario extending free HPV vaccines to boys’, CTV news (Online). Available from: http://www.ctvnews.ca/health/ontario-extending-free-hpv-vaccines-to-boys-1.2869481 (Accessed: June 20 2016)

National Cancer Institute (no date) ‘Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccines’, (Online). Available from: http://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/infectious-agents/hpv-vaccine-fact-sheet#q1 (Accessed: 20 June 2016)

Perez, S., Fedoruk, C., Shapiro, G. and Rosberger Z. (2016) ‘Giving Boys a Shot: The HPV Vaccine’s Portrayal in Canadian Newspapers’, Health Communication p.1-12(Online). Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27123533 (Accessed: 20 June 2016)

Schmeler K. and Sturgis E. (2016) ‘Expanding the benefits of HPV vaccination to boys and men’, Lancet Vol. 387(10030):1798-9(Online). Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(16)30314-2 (Accessed: 20 June 2016)

Shum J., Kelsberg G. and Safranek S. (2015) ‘Clinical Inquiry: Does qHPV vaccine prevent anal intraepithelial neoplasia and condylomata in men?’ Journal of Family Practice Vol. 64(9) pp: 581-583(Online). Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26546954 (Accessed: 20 June 2016)

Thompson L., Nugent Z., Blanchard J., Ens C. and Yu B. (2016) ‘Increasing incidence of anogenital warts with an urban-rural divide among males in Manitoba, Canada, 1990-2011’, BMC Public Health Vol. 16(1):219(Online). Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4778275/ (Accessed: 20 June 2016)