Researchers at CFRI, led by Dr. Simon Dobson of CFRI’s Vaccine Evaluation Centre, have begun clinical trials on a new vaccine that protects boys against human papillomavirus (HPV). The study aims to discover how many doses of the vaccine are needed to provide optimal protection for boys through the years when they are most likely to contract HPV, their late teens and twenties.
HPV is a sexually transmitted virus that affects men and women. Seventy-five per cent of sexually active people will have at least one HPV infection in their lifetime. Most HPV infections will clear up on their own but in some cases, cells infected with HPV can become cancerous.
HPV is often considered to be a women’s health issue because HPV infections cause nearly all cases of cervical cancer, the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in women worldwide. In fact, HPV also causes cancers of the head, neck, anus and penis.
In B.C., the first dose of the HPV vaccine is given to girls in Grade 6. Immunization programs in Alberta and Prince Edward Island have recently begun giving the HPV vaccine to both boys and girls. This new study will test the effectiveness of the vaccine when given to boys aged 9 to 14 years old.
“HPV affects everyone,” says Dr. Dobson. “Our goal is to prevent transmission of HPV infections by making the HPV vaccine a non-gender specific vaccine that is given to boys and girls as part of their regular public health vaccination schedules.”
Families of boys who receive the nine-strain HPV vaccine as part of this new study will receive the vaccine free of charge; the four-strain vaccine that is currently available costs families $350.
Vaccine Evaluation Centre
Since the Vaccine Evaluation Centre was founded as the first of its kind in Canada in 1988, the centre’s investigators have completed over 225 research studies with findings that have contributed towards developing new vaccines, improving vaccine safety, and refining public immunization programs.