Before I begin, I would like to recognize Dr. Lamont Sweet who is in the gallery this afternoon. Dr. Sweet has been a leader in public health and immunization for many, many years and I’m glad he can be here today for this announcement.
It is a pleasure to rise in the house today and announce that the province’s program for Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine will expand this fall to include free immunization for Grade 6 boys.
Prince Edward Island is the first province to announce an expansion of its HPV Vaccination program to include boys.
This initiative, funded through existing resources in our departmental budget, highlights our commitment to our provincial immunization programs.
The HPV vaccine has been provided to Grade 6 girls since the 2007/2008 school year. The program is delivered in Island schools by Health PEI’s Public Health Nurses.
HPV is a known cause of several different types of cancers in both males and females and is the most common sexually transmitted infection among young adults. In fact, over half will develop infection over their lifetime.
By offering the vaccine to males, we can decrease the spread of HPV infection and the illnesses caused by the strains of HPV that are in the vaccine.
The goal of our provincial immunization program is to provide safe and effective vaccines to protect our population against vaccine preventable diseases.
With National Immunization Awareness Week being recognized from April 20 to 27, this is an opportunity to review the provinces ongoing commitment to publicly funded immunization programs.
Recent programs have included:
– the introduction of the rotavirus (Row-ta-virus) vaccine for infants aged 2 and 4 months in 2010, which has significantly reduced the rate of infection and hospitalization due to rotavirus gastrointestinal illness in Island children
– enhanced pertussis (per-TAH-sis) protection for infants with the introduction of the “cocooning” strategy in 2011 where mothers, fathers and all caregivers are encouraged to receive the vaccine at no cost
– free boosters of Tetanus and Pertussis containing vaccine for all Islanders since August 2011 and
– this past fall, we expanded free influenza vaccine coverage to all Islanders 65 years of age and over.
We know that no other health care intervention in the past 50 years has saved the lives of more children than immunization.
Enhancing our HPV Vaccine program is an important investment in the current and future health and well being of Islanders.
As we celebrate National Immunization Awareness Week, we thank the nurses in our Public Health program for the tremendous work they do in managing a variety of the provinces’ publicly funded immunization programs.