In 2006, the quadrivalent human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine was authorized in Canada for use in females between the ages of 9 and 26 years for the prevention of infection caused by HPV types 6, 11, 16 and 18. Types 16 and 18 are most common cause of cervical cancer. They can also cause vulvar, vaginal and anal cancers. Types 6 and 11 are most common cause of genital warts.
In Feb. 2010, the vaccine was approved for use in boys between ages 9 and 26. The vaccine was found to decrease the odds of genital warts. Since males are usually a silent carrier of the virus, vaccinating boys is thought to decrease the incidence of cervical cancer in females by decreasing transmission.
In April 2011, the quadrivalent vaccine was approved for use in females up to age 45. A new indication for prevention of anal cancer was also added.
The quadrivalent vaccine is now the standard of care. It has been recommended by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) for use in womyn ages 9 to 45 for prevention of cervical cancer and anogenital warts, and in men ages 9 to 25 for prevention of anal cancer and anogenital warts. NACI also recommends the vaccine to men who have sex with men (MSM) from the age of 9 onwards. Stronger evidence was found for the quadrivalent vaccine (Gardasil) as compared to the bivalent vaccine (Cervarix).
This vaccine decreases the risk of cancer in men and womyn. It is essential to make it available and accessible. With all the strong evidence that is now available for the benefits of such vaccination, it becomes unethical to withhold such intervention. Having said that, vaccination alone is not enough. We should continue to raise awareness about practices that reduce the risk of transmission of this and other sexually transmitted viruses, like abstinence and monogamy whenever feasible, condom use (limited role with HPV transmission) and targeting marginalized groups like sexual minorities (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered LGBT) underprivileged and uninsured, among others.You might be interested in reading: PAP test: More is not better! (Added April 02 2012) HPV: Can a sexually transmitted virus cause cancer? (Added Oct. 09 2010)