Boys aged between 12 and 13 in England will be offered the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine to protect them from HPV-related cancers, the Government has announced.
The decision follows new scientific evidence and a recommendation from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) – an independent panel of experts –to implement a gender-neutral HPV vaccination programme. The Scottish and Welsh Governments have already announced they will follow the JCVI’s advice.
The vaccine offers protection against HPV-related diseases, including cancer and genital warts. It is thought that including boys in the vaccination programme will improve health equality and strengthen herd immunity, offering better protection to those who have not had the vaccination themselves.
Announcing the news, public health minister Steve Brine said: “The HPV vaccine for girls is already expected to save hundreds of lives every year and I am delighted that we will now be protecting even more people from this devastating disease by extending the vaccine to boys.”
HPV Action (HPVA) – a collaborative partnership of 51 patient and professional organisations including the Royal Society of Public Health and the Terrence Higgins Trust – welcomed the news and called for the gender-neutral vaccination programme and catch up programme to be rolled out as soon as possible and also be extended to boys in Northern Ireland.
HPVA’s campaign director Peter Baker commented: “The decision to vaccinate boys as well as girls means that we are no longer attempting to tackle the scourge of HPV with one hand tied behind our back. This will make a real difference to the health of men and women and it will, ultimately, also save money.”
Robert Music, chief executive, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, added: “Improving awareness and understanding of HPV from a young age is one way in which we can increase uptake and protect more people from developing cancer.”
Royal Pharmaceutical Society Ash Soni said: “It’s good news there is now evidence for the health benefits of extending the HPV vaccine to boys. This is likely to be a mass vaccination programme through schools. However, we know that some boys may miss out for a variety of reasons and we would welcome community pharmacies as a place where vaccinations could take place for this purpose.”