WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government is expanding its human papillomavirus (HPV) immunization program to include both males and females beginning next year.
Health Minister Sharon Blady says including males in the program will reduce transmission and protect Manitobans from HPV-related cancers, regardless of gender.
HPV affects both men and women. While most HPV infections go away over time with no treatment, some can go on to cause cancer.
Blady adds the most common and high-risk types of HPV can be prevented through immunization.
“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.
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 vaccine will be offered free of charge to both sexes beginning in 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.