Boys set to receive HPV jab after JCVI recommendation

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisations (JCVI) has recommended that the HPV immunisation programme should be extended to cover boys.

HPV jab
HPV jab

The DHSC said it was considering the JCVI's advice and would provide a decision about whether boys should receive the vaccine shortly. Health minister Steve Brine said on Twitter: 'I know there are strong views on this issue and am well aware of everyone's concerns. Be assured I am looking at the advice carefully and will announce our decision very soon.'

The Welsh and Scottish governments both announced that they would be extending their vaccination programmes to include boys.

Welsh health secretary Vaughan Gething said: ‘We will now work with NHS Wales on the implementation of the new programme for roll out as soon as practicable.’

The JCVI has been reviewing the evidence for vaccinating boys against HPV since 2013. Last year it said that extending the programme to cover boys would not be cost effective in an interim statement, however it postponed its final recommendation after agreeing it needed to see further analyses on costs.

In its statement issued today, the JCVI said that under standard economic methodology, extending the vaccine to boys would not be considered cost-effective. However, given that the benefits of the programme would be seen over an extended period of time, it agreed to apply a different rate to assessing the vaccine which meant that a gender neutral programme was deemed to be cost-effective.

There were ‘clear health benefits in vaccinating boys’, the JCVI concluded. It said that this would provide protection to men who have sex with men and protect those vaccinated against HPV infection and associated disease including anogenital warts, anal, penile and oropharyngeal cancers.

Modelling also predicted that vaccinating boys would extend benefits of the programme to unvaccinated girls.

Cancer protection

The RCGP and the BMA, which have both campaigned for boys to receive the HPV jab, welcomed the JCVI's decision.

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said the move would ‘go a long way in protecting both boys and girls from a virus that can trigger a wide range of cancers.’

‘The HPV vaccine has proven extremely effective in protecting women against cervical cancer and we now have strong evidence to demonstrate that the vaccine also provides protection against a number of other serious cancers which affect both men and women, including head and neck cancer and anal cancer,’ she said.

’It has been frustrating that this effective vaccine has, until now, only been available on the NHS to girls but not boys. We hope parents will take up this important opportunity to get their sons and daughters vaccinated as soon as it is available to them.’

BMA board of science chair Professor Dame Parveen Kumar said it was an important moment for public health. ‘School aged girls have routinely been vaccinated against HPV which is known to cause cervical cancer and this has had a great impact in reducing its prevalence, but boys also need protection as more evidence emerges of the relationship between HPV and cancers that affect men,' she said.

‘Current measures such as offering vaccinations at sexual health clinics to men who have sex with men aged 16 to 45 are not effective in combatting the risks this disease poses as they're often already sexually active and it's too late to prevent.'

Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the Royal Society of Public Health, said: ‘The JCVI’s decision to advocate for a gender neutral vaccination programme against HPV is a victory for the public’s health. Boys have been left insufficiently protected against HPV for too long and it is good news that the UK is following in the footsteps of the other 20 countries already vaccinating boys against HPV.

‘It is estimated that HPV causes up to 5% of all cancers and, with the NHS under pressure, the value of the prevention of ill-health is only increasing. The government and vaccine manufacturers should aim to roll the immunisation programme out to all boys as soon as possible.’

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