GPs call for all boys to receive HPV jab as scheme for gay men launched

GPs have renewed calls for boys to receive the HPV vaccine, as pilot schemes to vaccinate men who have sex with men (MSM) at selected GUM and HIV clinics in England get underway.

HPV vaccination (Photo: Consolidated Scotland)
HPV vaccination (Photo: Consolidated Scotland)

Public Health England (PHE) said the pilots to vaccinate MSM will ‘help to determine whether it is possible to establish an appropriate and effective way to deliver the vaccination programme across the country at a later date’.

HPV is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections in the UK, and nearly all sexually-active people are thought to get infected with the virus at some point in their lives.

Condom use alone is considered insufficient to prevent people contracting HPV, which can also be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact with areas not covered by condoms.

A vaccination programme for girls aged 12-13 has been in place since 2008 to protect them from cervical cancer, genital warts and other cancers. The same scheme is not currently extended to boys, who are considered to receive a herd protection effect as a result of vaccination for girls.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) says it is currently unclear whether a scheme targeting all boys would be cost-effective. It has said it cannot consider approving a scheme until results from two mathematical models determining this are ready by ‘2017 at the earliest’.

HPV vaccination programme

But MSM are less likely to receive the herd protection benefits of vaccinating girls, and the JCVI concluded it was 'highly likely' a targeted vaccination programme would be cost-effective late last year.

RCGP immunisation lead Dr George Kassianos said: ‘The extension of HPV vaccination to GUM clinics for men aged 15 to 45 years is very welcome, but why not vaccinate all boys, as we do vaccinate girls?’

He previously told GPonline: ‘We really need every child – every boy, every girl – to be immune to this viral disease that we have a vaccine for.

‘We have decided to give it to girls to prevent disease, and we need to prevent it in boys as well. No, they don’t have a cervix for cervical cancer, but they [are vulnerable to] penile cancer, anal cancer, laryngeal cancer, oropharyngeal cancer and so on.

‘We need to give boys equal rights to HPV prevention. We don’t give them that in the UK.’

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