When Ty and Jayden came home with MY name written on their stickers for the Terry Fox Run, it hit me again that I had cancer this year and that I’m now a thyroid cancer survivor. Having also had “pre-cancer” warnings after pap tests and colonoscopies, I’m really nervous about the future of my own health and I am doing everything I can to get the proper tests that I need to ensure that doctors are watching me closely and monitoring the results. The tests and shots aren’t fun or my favourite time of year, but it helps me to know that I’m doing all that I can to put my health first. Knowing that I was completely blindsided by my own cancer diagnosis, I’m even more vigilant in protecting myself and my family against certain illnesses…yes, including many types of cancers.
When it comes to my boys, I’ll stop at nothing to protect them now and to prevent any health issues in the future. So when it comes to vaccinations, I’m a pro. This is to say that I support vaccinations and I believe that they are the best choice to protect my kids from diseases that can harm them or those they are in contact with. When the notes have come home from school or various shots for the boys, I contacted by my pediatrician. I completely trust him when he recommended that I get all the vaccinations that the school was offering my kids.
Last year, Ty was in grade 7 and received the hepatitis B and meningococcal vaccinations, but this year, the province of Ontario is expanding its publicly-funded immunization program to help protect more youth from human papillomavirus (HPV) infection and related cancers. Girls have been receiving the publicly-funded HPV vaccine since 2007 and now all boys and girls in Grade 7 will get the free vaccine in schools. Providing the HPV vaccine now in Grade 7 aligns with the best practices in other provinces and the research supports that immunizing youth between 9 and 13 years of age is when the vaccine is most effective.
As I learned more about HPV and the risks of other cancers, I’m thrilled to hear that Ontario has now included boys in this important initiative to protect youth against the dangerous HPV virus that cause many cancers in men and women. HPV is one of the most infectious diseases, infecting approximately 3 out of 4 sexually active Canadians at some point in their lives. The sexually-transmitted virus is very common around the world, and can lead to genital warts, as well as cancer of the cervix in women and penile cancer in men as well as cancer in the back of throat, base of the tongue and tonsils of both women and men. Fortunately, diseases and cancers caused by the most common types of HPV can be prevented with the vaccine.
Just like most kids, Ty and Jayden are not big fans of needles, but they have had only positive experiences getting the vaccinations given at school by public health nurses. The Health Canada-regulated HPV vaccine, like all vaccines is tested to make sure it’s safe and effective. And just like with other vaccinations, the side effects are minimal and may include; mild pain, swelling and redness where the injection was given (nothing a pain reliever and a snuggle from mom can’t cure).
Knowing what I know now about the risks associated with HPV, I’m going to talk to my pediatrician about getting this vaccine for my Ty who missed it last year. While I may be late for my oldest son to take advantage of this new initiative at school, when Jayden hits grade 7, I’ll be happy to have him protected against HPV and keep him healthy and safe for as long as possible.
This post was developed in association with the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. The opinions of the author are their own.