The government has announced today that adolescent boys in England will be offered the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine to protect them from cancer.
The move to give thousands of boys aged between 12 and 13 in England the HPV vaccine as well as girls follows similar announcements last week in Scotland and Wales.
“This extended programme offers us the opportunity to make HPV-related diseases a thing of the past”
The decisions were sparked by new advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which was published last Thursday.
The advisory body recommended that the existing HPV vaccination programme for girls should be extended to boys as well, because it was “highly likely to be cost-effective”.
The vaccine not only protects men from HPV-related diseases – such as oral, throat and anal cancer – but also helps reduce the overall number of cervical cancers in women though herd immunity.
The extension of the vaccine to boys follows the success of England’s HPV vaccination programme for girls and the recent introduction of one for men who have sex with men.
HPV vaccination is currently offered to girls aged 12 and 13 in a free school-based immunisation programme, which began in 2008 to reduce cervical cancers.
“We are committed to leading a world-class vaccination programme”
Along with Wales and Scotland, England will now be one of a small number of countries to offer HPV vaccination for both girls and boys.
The government said the extension of the programme built on its commitment to “achieving the best cancer outcomes in the world”.
Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisations at Public Health England, said: “I’m pleased that adolescent boys will be offered the HPV vaccine.
“Almost all women under 25 have had the HPV vaccine and we’re confident that we will see a similarly high uptake in boys,” said Dr Ramsay.
“This extended programme offers us the opportunity to make HPV-related diseases a thing of the past and build on the success of the girls’ programme, which has already reduced the prevalence of HPV 16 and 18, the main cancer-causing types, by over 80%,” she said.
Dr Mary Ramsay
“We can now be even more confident that we will reduce cervical and other cancers in both men and women in the future,” she added.
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 vaccines to boys.
“We are committed to leading a world-class vaccination programme and achieving some of the best cancer outcomes in the world – I am confident these measures today will bring us one step further to achieving this goal,” he said.
Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health, said: “It is fantastic to have confirmation that the HPV vaccination programme will be extended to boys in England, as well as in Scotland and Wales.
“Over the past 10 years, the vaccination programme for girls has already shown great benefits, but too many people were left unprotected against HPV-related diseases,” she said.
“It is imperative that the gender-neutral programme is implemented by September 2019 to ensure as many people as possible reap the benefits,” she added.