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Alberta to expand access to HPV vaccination

Alberta is taking steps to protect all young Albertans from a cancer causing virus by offering the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine to male students in schools next fall.

Alberta will be the second province in the country to roll out an HPV program for boys. Prince Edward Island was the first province to implement a school program for male students. Girls in Alberta have had access to this immunization since 2008.

“Our government is committed to building a healthier Alberta. Expanding the HPV immunization program will mean both boys and girls will be protected from HPV-related cancers. Our investments today will reduce health care costs tomorrow – and most importantly, prevent future cases of cancer in Alberta.”

Health Minister Fred Horne

Alberta’s HPV immunization program will expand to include Grade 5 boys as part of the routine Grade 5 immunization program that started for girls in 2008. A four-year catch-up program will also be available for Grade 9 boys. It is expected that about 32,000 Grade 5 students and 15,500 Grade 9 boys will receive the vaccination next fall.

Since the HPV immunization program began in 2008, about 61 per cent of Grade 5 and Grade 9 girls have received the shots. As with all school-based immunization programs offered free of charge, the HPV immunization is voluntary and consent of a parent or guardian is required before the immunization occurs.

“We know that HPV infection is very common. About 70 per cent of adults will have HPV at some point in their lives. The HPV vaccine is most effective when given to boys and girls before they begin sexual activity, which increases the risk of being exposed to HPV.”

Dr. James Talbot, Chief Medical Officer of Health

“Vaccinating boys against HPV is critical to protecting the health and wellness of Albertans. Recent data from Alberta shows that almost 100 per cent of oropharyngeal head and neck cancers in men under 40 are HPV-related.”  

Dr. Hadi Seikaly, Professor of Surgery and Oncology at the University of Alberta

“Research suggests that immunizing both boys and girls against HPV will mean better protection for everyone. Pediatric infectious disease physicians support the inclusion of boys in the HPV immunization program, a move that will help prevent cancers, symptoms and, ultimately, deaths. We commend the Government of Alberta on its decision.”

Dr. Joan Robinson, Infectious Diseases Pediatrician, University of Alberta

“School-based immunization programs are about preventing serious, life-threatening diseases and conditions early on. We want a healthy future for our children and the Government of Alberta’s decision to include boys in the HPV immunization program will play a role in making sure that is the case. We look forward to offering the vaccine for both girls and boys through our schools this fall.”

Michael Janz, Vice-Chair, Edmonton Public School Board of Trustees

In alignment with the Changing Our Future: Alberta’s Cancer Plan to 2030, the Alberta Government recently introduced legislation to protect children from the harmful impacts of second-hand smoke, all in an effort to reduce cancer rates in our province.

Under the Building Alberta Plan, our government is investing in families and communities, living within our means, and opening new markets for Alberta's resources to ensure we're able to fund the services Albertans told us matter most to them. We will continue to deliver the responsible change Albertans voted for.

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