It’s becoming common knowledge among college-aged women that Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccinations should be administered in a series of three injections over a six-month period. Women between the ages of nine and 26 usually receive vaccinations for the virus types that most commonly cause genital warts and more importantly, cervical cancer. However, the term HPV itself actually encapsulates more than 100 related viruses according to the Mayo Clinic. But in February of this year, Canada approved the HPV vaccination Gardasil for men and boys aged nine to 26 – a fact that remains little known and not often acted upon.
While cervical cancer may not be an issue for men, there are numerous reasons to receive the vaccination. HPV infections can lead to rare penile and anal cancers. This makes the vaccine especially important for men with same-sex partners, who according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, are 17 times more likely to develop anal cancer than those with opposite-sex partners. The vaccinations immunize a patient against 90 per cent of genital warts, a more common but less threatening symptom of the disease which can be difficult to treat. Men immunized against HPV have a lower of risk of spreading the viruses.
As Pierre-Paul Tellier, director of the McGill Health Centre stated, the University had even pre-empted Canada’s approval of Gardasil: “The clinic made the vaccine available for men even before Health Canada accepted it. We had scientific evidence that it was effective so we chose to go ahead.” Not only is the vaccine approved but immediately accessible. “It is easily available, all a man has to do is book an appointment with a nurse and they will give it. Now that it is accepted by Health Canada, students can also be reimbursed in part through the SSMU health plan.” Yet even with the reimbursement, the cost may be high. Currently, the three vaccinations are $140 each and the test for HPV itself is $110.