Human papillomavirus vaccine to be offered to boys in England

HPV vaccine programme for adolescent boys aims to cut incidence of related cancers

HPV vaccine programme for adolescent boys aims to cut incidence of related cancers

Picture: SPL

The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is to be extended to adolescent boys in England.

The decision to offer the vaccine, which protects against HPV-related disease and cancers to 12 to 13-year-old boys follows similar moves in Wales and Scotland.

Gender-neutral programme ‘cost-effective’

Last week, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), an expert panel that advises the UK's four government health departments, stated a ‘gender-neutral’ programme to protect against the sexually transmitted infection would be cost-effective. Girls in the same age group have been offered the vaccine since 2008 throughout the UK.

England public health minister Steve Brine said: 'The HPV vaccine for girls is already expected to save hundreds of lives every year and I am delighted that we will now be extending it to boys.

'Any vaccination programme must be firmly grounded in evidence to ensure we can get the best outcomes for patients. I am confident these measures today will bring us one step closer to achieving our goal of having some of the best cancer outcomes in the world.'

Girls aged 12 and 13 are routinely offered the HPV vaccination at secondary school, and can have it free on the NHS until the age of 18, but there has been a growing campaign to extend the programme to boys.

There are hundreds of strains of HPV virus, most of which are harmless, but 12 types can cause cancer.

The vaccination will protect boys from HPV-related diseases, such as oral, throat and anal cancer, and will also help to reduce the number of cervical cancers in women through herd immunity.

High uptake expected

Public Health England (PHE) head of immunisation Mary Ramsay said: 'Almost all women under 25 have had the HPV vaccine and we're confident we will see a similarly high uptake in boys.'

The girls' programme has reduced the prevalence of HPV 16 and 18 – the main cancer-causing types – by more than 80%, according to PHE.

Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust chief executive Robert Music welcomed the move.

'The significantly-reduced HPV prevalence among young women will result in fewer cancer diagnoses in years to come,' he said.

'Extending the vaccine to boys means we will see even more cancers prevented and lives saved.'

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