Starting September, Ontario will start giving boys free vaccinations against the human papillomavirus (HPV) and its potential subsequent cancers.

Ontario's HPV program is currently offering free vaccines to Grade 8 girls. According to Ontario's Health Minister Dr. Eric Hoskins, the HPV program will be extended to cover all Grade 7 students starting September this year.

In the extended program, about 154,000 youth will have the chance to be immunized against HPV for free annually. Incoming Grade 8 female students will still receive the two-dose vaccines to ensure they don't miss out on the chance to be immunized.

The move from Grade 8 to Grade 7 and inclusion of boys in the program follows recent scientific finding as well as the advice of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization in Canada.

"Helping to protect Ontarians against cancer is part of our government's plan to build a successful and vital province. Expanding access to the HPV vaccine to include boys is an evidence-based decision and it is the right thing to do," said Hoskins.

The expanded program is part of the bigger Immunization 2020 initiative, which is Ontario's five-year plan to increase the people's access to vaccines that can save lives.

Ontario's chief medical officer of health Dr. David Williams added that expanding Ontario's HPV program will help the province protect more children from the cancers linked to HPV at a phase when the vaccine can be most active.

In an American study published in March, researchers found that within the first six years of the United States' own HPV program, there was a 64 percent drop in the occurrence of HPV strains that affect girls aged 14 to 19.

There was also an impressive 34 percent dip in the HPV strains that target young women aged 20 to 24.

HPV is the most common of all sexually transmitted diseases. This could lead to several types of cancers such as throat, genitals and cervical cancers between people aged 40 and 70.

Due to its prevalence, doctors advise young children to become vaccinated against HPV prior to their sexually active years.

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