Boys too: HPV vaccination to be offered to all N.L. students in Grade 6

A decade after deciding that Newfoundland and Labrador girls should be vaccinated against a virus linked to cancer, the province has decided that boys should be included too.

Health Minister John Haggie announced Thursday that starting this September, Grade 6 boys in the province will be offered gardasil, a vaccine that protects against the Human Papiloma Virus (HPV).

The vaccine, which costs several hundred dollars to buy out of pocket, will be free under the program, with the province picking up the $360,000 annual tab.

HPV is linked not just to cervical cancer, but to cancers of the mouth and throat, which have been rising in recent years, and men have lobbied to be covered under the vaccination program.

The Canadian Cancer Society, which has said HPV is linked to more than a third of mouth and throat cancers in both sexes, has also asked to have the program expanded.

For the vaccine to be effective, it has to be administered before boys and girls become sexually active.

Even with the vaccine, health officials encourage regular pap tests and other screening to detect strains of the virus not covered by the vaccine.