New West school board to consider pushing free HPV vaccine for boys

The free vaccine is currently available only to boys born in 2006 and later – but girls and young women can get their vaccines started for free as late as 18 years old

The New Westminster school board is considering sending a letter to the B.C. Ministry of Health to make the HPV9 vaccine free of charge for boys and men aged nine to 26.

According to a motion submitted by Trustee Danielle Connelly, an HPV9 vaccine – one of two vaccines, which covers a variety of types of HPV – can cost $500 out of pocket.

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Starting in 2008, girls in Grade 6 were able to receive the HPV9 vaccine free of charge, and that was extended to Grade 6 boys in 2017. However, the vaccine is only free for boys born in 2006 or later. Meanwhile, girls and women are eligible for the free vaccine if they begin the series of vaccines before they turn 19 and finish the series before they turn 26.

“There should not be a discrepancy based on sex for a vaccination that can save lives. The cost of the vaccine for boys not eligible for the free vaccination is so cost prohibitive that those who want it might have to go without,” wrote Connelly in her motion.

HPV infection is related to nearly all cases of cervical cancer, 80 to 90 per cent of anal cancers, 40 per cent of vaginal and vulvar cancers, 40 to 50 per cent of penile cancers and 25 to 35 per cent of mouth and throat cancers, Connelly noted.

The HPV9 vaccine protects against nine types of HPV that cause 85 to 90 per cent of cervical cancer cases, 91 per cent of anal cancer cases in women and 84 per cent of anal cancer cases in men. It also protects against two types of HPV that cause 90 per cent of genital warts cases.

The Canadian Cancer Society recommends that all women aged nine to 45 and men aged nine to 26 be vaccinated against HPV.

Connelly’s motion was introduced in a recent education committee meeting and was forwarded to the regular school board, which meets on Sept. 24, for consideration. If passed, the letter would also be sent to the B.C. legislature’s secretary for gender equity.

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