The newly expanded human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine programme in England could prevent more than 100,000 cases of cancer by 2058, new figures suggest.
The jab has been offered to schoolgirls for free through the NHS since 2008 but it has recently been announced that boys will be included in the programme from September this year.
“Experts predict that we could be on our way toward eliminating cervical cancer for good”
Worldwide, around 5% of all cancers are linked to the HPV virus, including cervical, penile, anal and genital cancers and some cancers of the head and neck – all of which the vaccine helps to protect against.
New estimates from the University of Warwick have predicted that by 2058, the programme, run by Public Health England (PHE), may prevent more than 64,000 cervical cancers and nearly 50,000 other cancers.
The estimates are based 50 years after the introduction of the HPV vaccination programme, meaning those who were vaccinated as teenagers would have reached the age groups that would typically be affected by HPV-related cancers.
Public health minister Seema Kennedy said the programme could help to wipe out cervical cancer for good.
“The success of the HPV vaccine programme for girls is clear and by extending it to boys we will go a step further to help us prevent more cases of HPV-related cancer every year,” she said.
“Offering the vaccine to boys will not only protect them but will also prevent more cases of HPV-related cancers in girls”
Dr Mary Ramsey
“Through our world-leading vaccination programme, we have already saved millions of lives and prevented countless cases of terrible diseases.
“Experts predict that we could be on our way toward eliminating cervical cancer for good.”
As part of the vaccination programme, the first dose is typically offered to Year 8 pupils aged 12 and 13 with a second dose given between six months and 24 months later.
According to PHE, 10 million doses of the HPV vaccine have been given to young women in England, which means more than 80% women aged 15-24 have received the vaccine.
Dr Mary Ramsay
Since the vaccine was introduced, infections of some types of HPV in 16-21-year-old women have reduced by 86% in England, noted PHE.
Studies have also shown that the vaccine has reduced pre-cancerous cervical disease in women by up to 71% and that diagnosis of genital warts have declined by 90% in 15-17-year-old girls and 70% in 15-17-year-old boys due to the HPV vaccine.
Head of immunisation at PHE, Dr Mary Ramsay, said the programme offered the opportunity to make HPV-related diseases a “thing of the past”.
She said: “Offering the vaccine to boys will not only protect them but will also prevent more cases of HPV-related cancers in girls and reduce the overall burden of these cancers in both men and women in the future.”
“The new focus on universal vaccination will protect the population as a whole”
Commenting on the new estimates, Royal College of Nursing professional lead for public health, Helen Donovan, said: “The RCN are delighted to be able to welcome this universal HPV vaccination campaign.
“The vaccine is clearly able to protect against many cancers and disease related to HPV and we are pleased to see this vaccine will be routinely offered to boys for the first time from this September.
“While the prevention of cervical cancer has been the main aim of the HPV vaccination programme, emerging evidence suggests the vaccine prevents cancers in both sexes.
“The new focus on universal vaccination will protect the population as a whole through individual and wider herd immunity and the college is proud to support this move.”