Program Expansion Further Step in Right Direction to Reduce Transmission, Protect Manitobans from HPV-related Cancer, Regardless of Gender: Minister Blady
In an effort to keep Manitobans healthy and reduce the number of new cancer cases, the province’s Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Immunization Program will be expanded starting next year to include both males and females, Health Minister Sharon Blady announced today.
“Through Manitoba’s Cancer Strategy, our government has made a commitment to reduce the burden of HPV on Manitobans,” said Minister Blady. “Offering the HPV vaccine to males is a step in the right direction to reduce transmission and protect Manitobans from HPV-related cancers, regardless of gender.”
In Canada and around the world, HPV affects both men and women. While most HPV infections go away over time with no treatment, some can go on to cause cancer. Thankfully, the most common and most high-risk types of HPV can be prevented through immunization, the minister said.
“Human papillomavirus can cause abnormal cell changes that can lead to cervical cancer, as well as cancer of the vagina, vulva, penis, anus, mouth and throat,” said Dr. Sri Navaratnam, president and CEO, CancerCare Manitoba. “Although the vast majority of people who have had HPV never develop cancer, many cancers caused by HPV could be prevented by the HPV vaccine. Vaccinating boys with the HPV vaccine will help prevent transmission of the virus and help reduce the incidence and mortality of all HPV-related cancers.”
Minister Blady noted that it is important to immunize children early, before adolescence. Under the expanded HPV Immunization Program, boys and girls in Grade 6 will now be offered the HPV vaccine free of charge starting September 2016 in schools across the province. Boys in Grade 9 will also be offered the vaccine free-of-charge for the next three years in schools. The expanded HPV immunization program will be part of the province’s new immunization schedule changes starting this year with a two-dose HPV vaccine for Grade 6 female students, the minister said.
This vaccine will provide protection from high-risk types of HPV that are linked to cancers affecting both men and women, such as cervical, penile and anal, as well as head and neck cancer.
Manitoba started immunizing girls in Grade 6 in September 2008. Any girl who missed the vaccine when it was offered in Grade 6 can still get immunized free of charge due to the province’s ‘once eligible, always eligible’ policy. This policy now also applies to boys, the minister said.
Minister Blady noted that as with all provincial immunization programs, the HPV immunization program will be voluntary and parents will be asked for their consent.
For information about the HPV vaccine, call Health Links–Info Santé at 204-788-8200 or (toll-free) 1-888-315-9257. Additional information about the HPV vaccine is also available on the Manitoba Health, Healthy Living and Seniors website at www.gov.mb.ca/health/publichealth/cdc/fs/hpvparents.pdf.