HPV Action calls for catch-up vaccinations for boys

News Published: 
12 November 2018

HPV Action has called on the government to offer ‘catch-up’ HPV vaccinations for boys up to the age of 18.

In a letter to the Minister for Public Health signed by FGDP(UK) Dean Ian Mills, the campaign group recommends running immunisation for older boys alongside the vaccination programme for 12-13 year old boys which the government recently announced it would implement. The group also urges the Minister to make a firm commitment to starting boys’ vaccinations in 2019 rather than just saying he intends to do so.

HPV affects 80% of men at some point in their lives, causes 5% of all cancers and is the leading cause of oropharyngeal cancers. With each passing year, 400,000 more young men go unvaccinated, and 2,000 men a year in the UK are diagnosed with an HPV-related cancer - of whom almost half will die from the condition within five years.

Ministers have so far rejected the case for a catch-up programme for boys - despite having offered one when the vaccination was introduced to the NHS Routine Childhood Immunisation Schedule for girls in 2008 - on the grounds that boys are partly protected by the vaccination of girls.

However, the government’s own vaccination advisory committee recommended HPV vaccination for boys earlier this year precisely because vaccinating girls offers boys inadequate protection – they may go on to have sex with other men, or with women who missed or refused the vaccination, are too old to have benefitted from the UK programme, or are from a country without an HPV vaccination programme. HPV Action, of which the Faculty is a member, says the opportunity must be seized to vaccinate as many boys as possible while they are still at school.

The letter is available to read here.

Update 12 December 2018: HPV Action has since received a response from the Minister, in which he ruled out a catch-up programme on the grounds that it would cause service delivery problems and provide benefit to too few boys to be justified. His response is available to read here.