HPV jabs for adolescent boys could be cost-effective

Vaccinating 12-year-old boys against the HPV virus 'may be a cost-effective strategy for preventing oropharyngeal cancer', Canadian researchers have concluded.

Boys could benefit from HPV jabs (Photo: iStock)
Boys could benefit from HPV jabs (Photo: iStock)

The study, published in the journal Cancer, estimated that vaccinating adolescent boys could save from 8m to 28m Canadian dollars (equivalent to approximately £4.3m to £15m) compared to the cost of treating oropharyngeal cancer over the boys’ lifetimes.

The researchers applied statistical models to a population of almost 200,000 12-year-old boys in Canada, and took into account the costs of vaccine cost and effectiveness compared to costs of cancer treatment and survival of patients with HPV-related oropharyngeal cancers.

Many western countries, including the UK, have adopted HPV vaccination programmes in adolescent girls to help prevent cervical cancer, but deciding whether extending this scheme to boys has been hotly debated.

The UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has previously said that high coverage in girls would provide a herd protection effect for boys, meaning there would be little additional cost benefit to vaccinating boys en masse.

It has, however, issued interim guidance stating that immunising men who have sex with men against the virus could be cost-effective, as they are less likely to benefit from this herd protection effect.

UK assessment planned

Public Health England (PHE) was scheduled to begin modelling work to assess the impact and cost-effectiveness of a scheme in boys early this year.

The study authors said they hoped the findings would raise awareness and ‘lead to further assessment of this important public health issue’.

Lead author Dr Donna Graham said: ‘We believe this study is important because HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer has increased significantly in incidence, especially in developed countries.

‘It is projected that by 2020, HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer will become the most common HPV-related cancer in the US, surpassing cervical cancer.’

A Scottish study released last year showed that young women who had received the vaccine as teenagers had fewer incidences of pre-cancerous cervical changes, suggesting promise for the UK scheme targeting girls.

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