Exclusive: 'Give HPV jabs to boys of 12'

The roll-out of the HPV vaccination programme should be extended to include boys and teenage girls, a leading cervical cancer specialist has suggested.

Dr Anne Szarewski, clinical consultant for Cancer Research UK, says plans for a HPV vaccination scheme must include boys and older teenage girls.

The DoH has accepted in principle the advice of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation's (JCVI) HPV subgroup that the vaccine be introduced routinely for 12-year-old girls in September 2008 in England, subject to independent peer review of the cost-effectiveness analysis.

But Dr Szarewski says it would be cost-effective to also protect boys from 12 years because this would boost herd immunity.

'It is a bad public health message to be giving out that you should only vaccinate girls and not boys against a sexually transmitted disease,' she added.

'Not vaccinating boys will increase the risk that homosexual men will become infected.'

As well as targeting boys, the vaccination programme should include a catch-up programme for girls aged 15 and 16, said Dr Szarewski.

'The mean age for sexual intercourse among girls is 17, so there is a chance to protect teenaged girls as well,' she explained.

'It would be a great shame if the vaccination programme does not include this.'

There is also a suggestion that you can boost immunity by giving the vaccine to women who have already cleared the HPV infection, added Dr Szarewski.

But Professor Margret Stanley, a virologist at Cambridge University and an advisor to the JCVI's HPV subgroup, said that there was not enough evidence to justify the inclusion of boys in the vaccination programme.

'The JCVI's HPV subgroup is still in discussion about whether to include a programme for girls,' she said.

'It's a sensible idea to include a programme so we can vaccinate as many girls as possible.'

The JCVI HPV subcommittee next meets on 16 October.

Meanwhile, a UK survey of 150 GPs has revealed that three out of five GPs said they wanted their daughters vaccinated against HPV. Marketing company TNS Healthcare found that 84 per cent of GPs said they would welcome further education on HPV.

Only 15 per cent of GPs said that they felt sufficiently knowledgeable to talk about the virus and the vaccine to their patients.

The survey found that 45 per cent of GPs have already been asked about HPV vaccination by their patients.

sanjay.tanday@haymarket.com

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