School boards await HPV decision

Central Alberta school districts are watching carefully to see if the Alberta government will introduce HPV vaccine for boys. The province is looking at including boys in a free school vaccination program that’s been underway since 2008 for Grade 5 girls. The province estimates that about 61 per cent of girls between the ages of nine and 13 have received the shots to prevent human papillomaviruses (HPV).

Central Alberta school districts are watching carefully to see if the Alberta government will introduce HPV vaccine for boys.

The province is looking at including boys in a free school vaccination program that’s been underway since 2008 for Grade 5 girls.

The province estimates that about 61 per cent of girls between the ages of nine and 13 have received the shots to prevent human papillomaviruses (HPV).

This summer, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health and other officials are to meet with their counterparts across Canada in Ottawa to examine the evidence of HPV vaccine for boys.

Last month, the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada urged provincial health ministers to include boys in their HPV vaccine programs.

Prince Edward Island is the only province to announce it intends to extend its HPV vaccine program to boys.

Wild Rose Public Schools spokesman Nathan Klosse said that they would have no problem with it being introduced.

“Wild Rose Public Schools would support this program as long as it was recommended by Alberta Health professionals and the program ran under parental consent,” said Klosse.

He said the program for girls, which has been running for four years, has been fairly positive.

It has been open to Grade 5 and 9 students, but will move forward targeting younger girls in a mass sense. Grade 9s will still have the option.

Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools board has not yet discussed the issue.

Piet Langstraat, superintendent with Red Deer Public Schools, said they will take their lead on what Alberta Health Services does and if it approves the vaccine, the district will do what it can to co-operate.

“With our (board) trustees, it’s important that we have parental consent,” he said.

Allan Tarnoczi, associate supervisor of corporate services for Chinook’s Edge School Division, said its role is neutral on this, since it serves as the distribution point for offering the vaccines and collecting all the parental consent forms.

“That’s kind of how we respond to all their programs and that’s how we would respond to this one as well,” said Tarnoczi.

James Talbot, chief medical officer of health for Alberta, said that they try to do these programs across the country at the same time because it gives a standard for health care. It also means they can negotiate a better deal from the vaccine manufacturer.

“We also have to take the Alberta situation and we have some pretty smart people creating models and what the effect would be on cost to the province, like diagnostic tests and hospitalizations,” said Talbot.

HPV is a sexually transmitted virus, so it’s important to reach children before they start having sex.

Grade 5 is where those vaccines start to happen, or around 10 to 11 year of age.

The virus can lead to cervical cancer in girls and women. In Alberta, there are 150 and 180 deaths to cervical cancer each year.

Boys can get more rare cancers such as those affecting anal and penile areas. Cases of these amount to 10 to 30 per year, including all causes.

Talbot said that using condoms is the most common means of preventing HPV.

ltester@bprda.wpengine.com