Boys should be given HPV vaccine for protection against cancer virus

Boys should be given the HPV vaccine that protects against the virus that causes cervical cancer, an advisory committee has said.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), an expert advisory group, recommended the government should introduce a ‘gender-neutral’ national vaccination programme to protect against human papillomavirus (HPV).

The HPV vaccination is routinely offered to girls aged 12 to 13 at secondary school and is free on the NHS up until their 18th birthday.

However there have been growing calls to extend immunisation to boys.

The JCVI says the government should introduce a ‘gender-neutral’ national vaccination programme (Picture: Getty Images/PhotoAlto)

HPV is the name given to a large group of viruses, which can be caught through any kind of sexual contact with another person who already has it.

The JCVI said: ‘If considering a cost-effectiveness analysis where a combined girls’ and boys’ programme is compared to no vaccination, gender-neutral HPV vaccination is highly likely to be cost-effective.’

In July last year, campaigners reacted angrily when an interim report by the committee said it could not recommend extension.

The Department of Health and Social Care has been urged to act quickly on the committee’s final report.

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Peter Baker, director of campaign group HPV Action, said: ‘The JCVI’s advice that boys should be vaccinated is very welcome news for boys and their parents.

‘It will also benefit those girls who, for whatever reason, have not been vaccinated against HPV.

‘We have waited a very long time for this announcement and it is now imperative that ministers accept the JCVI’s advice without delay so that no more boys are left at risk.

‘HPV Action believes it is entirely realistic for the vaccination of boys to begin by September 2019 at the latest.’

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The move would bring the UK into line with around 20 other countries which already recommend vaccination for both sexes.

The Government said it will consider the advice before issuing a formal announcement.

Around 12 types of the HPV virus can cause cancer (Picture: Getty Images)

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said: ‘The Government takes advice from an independent expert committee – the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) – when making decisions on vaccination programmes.

‘We are carefully considering their advice and will update on a decision shortly.’

There are hundreds of strains of HPV virus, and most are harmless, but around 12 types can cause cancer.

Boys are said to benefit from the current scheme through ‘herd protection’, but men who have sex with men and not women do not gain protection.


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