The HPV Vaccine, free for boys too?
The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is linked to cancers in both men and women, which has one local doctor wondering why the Quebec government currently only offers the vaccine against it free to girls.
For five years, the province has had a program in place that offers the HPV vaccine to girls under the age of 18 without cost.
“I don’t think we can get away with discriminating like that,” said Dr. John Bray, Ob-gyn. ”I don’t think it’s fair.”
Bray says that more and more parents are becoming interested in getting the vaccine for their sons.
“Let’s face it, everyone gets HPV,” he said. “I don't care who you are, as soon as you get sexually active you get it. Ninety per cent of us get rid of it with our immune systems, but 10 per cent don't.”
That said the price tag isn't cheap, about $450 dollars per boy, not necessarily covered by private insurance.
The sexually transmitted disease can cause throat and rectal cancer in men, and is the leading cause of most head and neck cancers in males under the age of 40.
But, Quebec's public health institute says that the issue isn't considered urgent at this point.
“At the current cost of the vaccine and at the population level, the cost-effectiveness ratio is above threshold used in strategies that has to be prioritized,” explained the institute's Chantal Sauvageau.
Bray still thinks that vaccinating both sexes is the way to go, and also points to the need to consider the gay population.
Head and Hands, a local non-profit that offers medical services to teens and young adults, agrees with Bray.
“I don’t think that public health should be based on assumptions about what people are doing, and the kinds of risks people are taking,” said the organization’s Juniper Belshaw.
Public health officials are pushing the federal government for a national plan. They say that buying more vaccines would make the cheaper, and potentially – free for all.