The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) published a report this week recommending that the HPV vaccine is extended to adolescent boys as well as girls in the UK.
The vaccination programme began in the UK a decade ago and was aimed at tackling HPV (human papillomavirus) in adolescent girls. The vaccine protects against 4 types of HPV, a virus which has been proven to cause genital warts and several forms of cancer, including anal and cervical.
As the virus is spread sexually, through oral or genital contact, men who have sex with women are partially protected if their partner has been vaccinated. However, men who have sex with men are offered no protection from the virus. The JCVI recommended extending the vaccine to adult men who have sex with men in 2015, a group who are at higher risk of having anal cancer. These men can request the HPV vaccination up to the age of 45.
The JCVI had not recommended the programme extend to boys for the sake of cost-effectiveness, but today’s report shows the cancer-reducing implantations the vaccine programme could have. The programme will not see the light of day until it is formally accepted by the UK Government, who will then publish a plan for the gender-neutral extension of the vaccination to all children aged 11-13.
In Ireland, the HSE has offered the HPV vaccine to all girls in their first year of second level schools since 2010 in order to protect them from cervical cancer in adulthood. However, the vaccine has yet to be made available to adolescent boys as part of the schooling programme, and can only be received privately. The HSE have stated online that “some countries for example Australia and the United States, recommend routine vaccination for boys. This is not recommended as part of the school programme in Ireland at present.”
The HPV vaccine has been available for gay men under 45 in Ireland since 2016.
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