Should men up to age 25 get the HPV jab? The virus is the cause of 99.7 per cent of cervical cancers and vaccinating boys will help protect their partners

  • From September, vaccination against the human papilloma virus is to be extended to boys in Year 8, aged 12-13, it’s been part available to girls since 2008
  • Vaccination is most effective if administered before sexual activity begins 
  • It currently prevents 95 per cent of the four cancer-causing strains of the virus

Behind the announcement last week that 12-year-old boys are to receive the HPV vaccination lies another important question: should older boys receive the jab, too? 

From September, vaccination against the human papilloma virus (HPV) is to be extended to boys in Year 8, aged 12-13, (it has been part of the vaccination programme for girls since 2008).

The virus is the cause of 99.7 per cent of cervical cancers and because it is sexually transmitted, vaccinating boys will help protect their partners.

Reducing the circulation of the virus, which is linked to one in 20 cancers, will also help prevent genital cancers and some cancers of the head and neck, as well as genital warts. The vaccination is given to 12 and 13-year-olds because it is most effective if administered before sexual activity begins.

It currently prevents 95 per cent of the four cancer-causing strains of the virus. According to Public Health England, it could prevent more than 100,000 cancers across the UK by 2058.

But should boys up to the age of 25 have it, too? Professor Beate Kampmann, director of the vaccine centre at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, says older boys could benefit. ‘The vaccine is most effective before acquisition of the HPV virus, which is usually before people become sexually active,’ she says.

‘Older boys who are not sexually active would get the benefits, given they would not have encountered HPV.

‘Even at a later stage, once a boy is sexually active and HPV positive, they might be infected with only one of the strains, so the vaccine could cover the other three and still be beneficial. The vaccine will additionally trigger the body’s immune system, which might prevent an HPV infection becoming more aggressive.

‘We will only know this for sure by doing clinical studies, but there is no harm in taking it at a later stage, and I would recommend it for boys older than 12 and up to age 25.’

For older boys, the jab is available only privately (at a cost of around £475).

Not extending the vaccine to older boys is a ‘missed opportunity’, says Dr Olwen Williams, president of the British Association of Sexual Health and HIV.

‘This will leave a not insignificant proportion of the population at ongoing risk of acquiring HPV,’ she says. 



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