GPs almost unanimously back HPV vaccination in boys, poll shows

Nearly all GPs (94%) would want their own sons vaccinated against HPV, a poll of almost 1,000 has suggested, as officials prepare to decide whether the current scheme for girls should be extended.

HPV vaccination (Photo: Dr P Marazzi/Science Photo Library)
HPV vaccination (Photo: Dr P Marazzi/Science Photo Library)

GPs almost unanimously support extending the HPV vaccination programme to teenage boys as well as girls, according to a poll conducted by campaigners.

It comes as the Joint Committee for Vaccinations and Immunisations (JCVI) prepares to conclude officially in June whether a scheme vaccinating teenage boys would be cost-effective.

The GPC warned it was ‘ridiculous’ that people are being left to die from these cancers ‘when their life could have been saved by a simple injection’.

The current HPV vaccination programme, launched in 2008, offers universal vaccination to schoolgirls aged 12-13 – but is not extended to teenage boys, who are considered to indirectly benefit through a protective ‘herd effect’.

Despite calls from GPs and other health professionals to offer the scheme to boys, the JCVI's latest statement, made in February, said it saw ‘very little benefit to be had by vaccinating boys’, given that uptake is high at 80% in girls.

HPV vaccination

But it added it was waiting on results of further modelling by Public Health England (PHE), due in early June, before making a final recommendation.

Campaign group HPV Action claimed this week that a scheme vaccinating boys would be cost-effective – costing ‘£20-£22m a year at most’, a valued it said is dwarfed by the cost of treating HPV-related cancers and warts.

A scheme aimed at men who have sex with men (MSM), whose risk of exposure to the virus remains high despite good coverage in girls, was launched last year.

Boys are officially recommended to receive the vaccine in Australia, the USA, Bermuda, New Zealand, Austria, Israel, Switzerland and Canada.

It is estimated that 5% of all cancers are caused by HPV, most notably oral, cervical, anal and penile cancers.

Up to 80% of sexually-active people will contract HPV at some point in their lives. Condom use alone is considered insufficient to prevent infection, which can also be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact with areas not covered by condoms.

Dr Andrew Green, GPC clinical and prescribing lead, said: ‘If we want to see an end to some of the most aggressive and hard to treat cancers such as throat, head, neck and anal cancer, boys as well as girls must be given the HPV vaccination.

‘It is ridiculous that people are still dying from these cancers when their life could have easily been saved by a simple injection.’

Tristan Almada, from the HPV & Anal Cancer Foundation, said: ‘The UK government cannot ignore the overwhelming support from GPs, dentists and MPs who want boys to have the HPV vaccination. 

‘With every year that passes, almost 400,000 more boys go unvaccinated and are therefore at risk of developing a HPV-related cancer later in life. The government must roll out gender-neutral vaccination nationally as soon as possible.’

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