DH advisers rethink decision to block HPV jabs for boys

Government advisers are reconsidering their recommendation against vaccinating boys for HPV, after appearing to admit that initial cost modelling may not have been based on real-world costs.

DH headquarters, Whitehall (Photo: Emma Platt)
DH headquarters, Whitehall (Photo: Emma Platt)

The Joint Committee for Vaccinations and Immunisations (JCVI) has postponed its final recommendation regarding whether boys should be included in the HPV vaccination programme.

It comes after the committee, which advises the government on its vaccination programmes, released an interim statement in July warning that extending the programme to boys was ‘highly unlikely to be cost effective’.

But minutes from a recent JCVI meeting suggest that the cost analyses used to determine this were calculated based on inaccurate information about vaccine pricing, which may affect the outcome.

HPV vaccine options

The JCVI added that there was more than one type of HPV vaccine available, and there was ‘potential to consider’ using HPV vaccines of differing valences for girls and boys as a cost-effective approach.

Since publication of its interim statement, the JCVI said stakeholders had also raised legal questions about whether it was discriminatory not to include boys in the vaccination programme.

The committee concluded that the modelling work needed ‘final checks, peer review and additional scenarios explored’. As a result, it said it was ‘not yet in a position to finalise its recommendation on boys’ vaccination’.

The JCVI began its assessment of vaccination for boys in 2013. Campaigners have warned that five years should be ‘more than enough time for a decision’, warning that 400,000 more boys are left unvaccinated and at risk to HPV-related every year.

The scheme vaccinating teenage girls launched almost a decade ago in 2008 to help protect them against cervical cancer.

Rethink on advice

But campaigners welcomed the news that the JCVI could be looking to change its recommendation.

HPV Action campaign director Peter Baker said: ‘While we are pleased that JCVI is listening to HPV Action and looking again at its interim decision not to vaccinate boys, we are very concerned about how long this process is taking.

‘The JCVI’s review of HPV vaccination for boys began in 2013 and a decision was supposed to have been made in 2015. The announcement was then postponed to early 2017 and now we are looking at 2018.’

Tristan Almada, co-founder of the HPV & Anal Cancer Foundation, said: ‘Although the public is familiar with the HPV vaccine as the "cervical cancer jab", HPV is responsible for the fastest increasing cancers in UK men today.

'Recognising the HPV vaccine as our best opportunity to prevent cancer since smoking cessation, 15 countries, including the US, Canada, and Australia, are now vaccinating their boys against a virus that causes cancer in both genders. UK boys deserve the same.'

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