The DoH may be forced to add boys to the HPV vaccination programme to hit uptake levels required for herd immunity, a top cervical cancer expert says.
Dr Anne Szarewski, a clinical consultant at the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, told GP newspaper that it was 'very likely that boys would be vaccinated sometime down the line'.
Speaking at a MIMS Women's Health conference in central London last week, Dr Szarewski warned it was short-sighted to vaccinate only girls.
'It is extremely unlikely that uptake in girls will hit the 100 per cent level. In order to get herd immunity we need to vaccinate boys as well,' she said.
Members of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation appear to share concerns over uptake.
Minutes published after the roll-out of the programme reveal 'some difficulties in reaching girls aged 17 to 18 who had left the school system'.
Meanwhile, data for HPV uptake in England to January this year show only 73.4 per cent of 12- to 13-year-olds received a second dose of the vaccine.
Among the catch-up group of 17- and 18-year-olds, just 32.2 per cent had the first dose and 21.5 per cent a second dose.
Dr Szarewski believes vaccinating both sexes would boost uptake by removing the stigma.
This could improve uptake in ethnic minorities, where there can be pressure not to vaccinate girls against an STI, she said.
'In these groups it is less likely that girls will come forward for the vaccination.'
Dr Szarewski added that the high population of homosexual men in the UK were being missed by the vaccination programme.
Meanwhile, the manufacturer of Gardasil has applied for a licence for its use in males aged nine to 26 years old.
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