HPV jabs could be extended to boys as DH advisors meet this week

Campaigners have urged the Joint Committee for Vaccinations and Immunisations (JCVI) to extend HPV vaccination to boys as well as girls as it prepares to consider the move this week.

HPV vaccination: GPs back jabs for boys (Photo: Consolidated Scotland)
HPV vaccination: GPs back jabs for boys (Photo: Consolidated Scotland)

HPV Action, a coalition of 47 medical and patient groups, called on the JCVI to recommend the vaccination of all boys without delay ‘to protect the next generation from this carcinogenic virus’.

The JCVI is expected to announce its final decision on whether to vaccinate all schoolboys against HPV later this week, on Wednesday 7 June.

GPonline has previously reported that the GP profession almost unanimously supports extending the vaccine programme to include boys.

But the JCVI's latest statement, released in February, said it saw ‘very little benefit’ to opening up the current scheme, which has vaccinated schoolgirls aged 12-13 since 2008, casting doubt on the whether it will rubber stamp the decision, which it has been considering since 2013.

The GPC has said it is ‘ridiculous’ that some men will be consigned to death from anal, penile and oral cancers ‘when their life could have been saved by a simple injection’.

HPV vaccination

Around 2,000 men are diagnosed with HPV-related cancer every year in the UK, in addition to 48,000 cases of genital warts.

The JCVI has previously suggested that boys will benefit from a herd protection effect due to the high uptake in girls – around 85% – meaning extending the scheme may not be cost effective.

But campaigners HPV Action warned this would leave many men unprotected if they have sex with unvaccinated women from other countries or with other men.

It has estimated that vaccinating boys would cost ‘£20-22m a year at most’, a sum it said is dwarfed by the cost of treating HPV-related cancer and warts.

The cost of treating anogenital warts alone is estimated at £58m a year in the UK, while the secondary care costs of treating HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer are likely to exceed £21m a year. A further £7m is spent treating men for anal cancer.

Cancer risk

Currently 11 countries already do or plan to vaccinate all boys alongside girls, including Australia, Austria, Italy and Norway.

Tristan Almada, founder of the HPV & Anal Cancer Foundation, said: ‘Nobody should die from a HPV-related cancer when a vaccination exists to prevent it.?Almost 400,000 more boys go unvaccinated every year leaving them at risk of developing a HPV-related cancer later in life.

‘With HPV-related cancers increasing, the government must take this opportunity to roll out a gender-neutral vaccination nationally as soon as possible.’

Peter Baker, HPV Action Campaign Director, added: ‘HPV affects men and women equally and both sexes therefore deserve equal protection through a national vaccination programme.

‘It is now time for the government’s vaccination advisory committee to listen to the doctors treating men with cancers caused by HPV and, above all, to the men whose lives have been devastated, and act now to prevent the suffering of more men from this easily-preventable infection.’

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