A mother in British Columbia says the Canadian province should change their double standard for the human papillomavirus vaccine. Although the vaccine is offered for free to girls in Grade Six, it costs between $300 to $400 for boys.
"It's really quite ridiculous and cost prohibitive," said Fiona Brinkman, explaining that she had to spend $340 to vaccinate her son. There is no cure for the virus, although in most cases, it will go away on its own - often without causing any health problems. However, HPV can cause genital warts, cervical cancer, and a number of other cancers - including cancer of the penis.
In British Columbia schools, girls are vaccinated to protect against HPV in grade six, yet vaccinating boys is more complex.
"You have to basically go to your doctor, ask for a prescription, go to pharmacist, fill in the prescription, take that vaccine you get, keep it in the fridge carefully until you are ready to go back to the doctor, go back to the doctor and get your son vaccinated," Brinkman said, "Then repeat the whole procedure again," since the HPV vaccine for boys can require two or even three doses.
According to the Center for Disease Control, HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the world, and is so prevalent that nearly all sexually active men and women acquire at least one type of the virus at some point in their lives.
The CDC recommends that all boys and girls aged 11 or 12 should be vaccinated. About 79 million Americans are currently infected with the virus, with 14 million people becoming newly infected each year.
The Canadian government has recently announced that boys under the age of 26 who are "vulnerable" to the virus may receive the vaccine for free. "Vulnerable" in this sense is defined as "those who have sex with males or who are street-involved."
Yet, as Brinkman points out, it is ludicrous to define children as "vulnerable" - meaning gay, bisexual, or "street-involved" - before they even become sexually active.
"Asking a 12-year-old who is still at the stage where they sort of think of sex as a bit weird to basically figure out if they will still be at risk later in life is really difficult," Brinkman said.
Photo credit: Caribbean Medical News