The Joint Committee for Vaccinations and Immunisations (JCVI), which has yet to publish its final recommendation, said in an interim statement that studies ‘consistently show’ boys are afforded ‘considerable herd protection’ when there is high uptake of the vaccine in girls.
It added that extending the programme to boys was ‘highly unlikely’ to be cost-effective in the UK, where uptake in girls is over 85% – but stopped short of making an official recommendation at this stage.
Once the JCVI makes its formal recommendation, this will be put to ministers who have the final say on whether to amend the current programme.
The JCVI has been considering whether to include boys on the scheme – which launched for girls in 2008 – since 2014.
It said evidence ‘clearly indicated’ that HPV is linked to cancers that affect men as well as women, and that extending the programme would provide them direct protection against these cancers.
But it added that – ‘while there are some additional population-level benefits’ to including boys – doing so was unlikely to be cost-effective in the UK.
A pilot scheme to vaccinate men who have sex with men (MSM) was launched last year, as they are considered less likely to receive herd protection from vaccinating girls.
Detractors have warned that not vaccinating boys as a matter of course leaves them open to contracting the virus if they have sex with older women and women from countries that do not offer vaccination as well as other men.
The JCVI said: ‘This statement sets out the key evidence and describes the considerations and interim position of the JCVI.
‘The JCVI is consulting on its interim findings to ensure that the most appropriate and up-to-date evidence has been used, and that reasonable assumptions have been made where evidence is limited or unavailable.
‘Once the consultation is completed, the JCVI will develop and publish its final advice.’