The Faculty of General Dental Practice (FGDP(UK)) says the position of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) that boys should not receive the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccination will cost lives.
HPV causes 5% of all cancers, 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. HPV is the leading cause of oro-pharyngeal cancers, and over two-thirds of oral cancer diagnoses, which have increased sharply in recent years to around 20 a day, are in men.
Since 2008, girls have been vaccinated against HPV on the NHS at age 12/13, leading to a significant reduction in the prevalence of the virus among women. Boys are vaccinated in 11 other countries, yet after nearly four years of deliberation on the issue, the JCVI’s interim statement, published today, suggests that UK boys will not be offered the same protection as their peers.
The paper, which will now be consulted upon, acknowledges that “the HPV vaccine in boys generates comparable immunogenicity to that seen in girls [and] would provide those vaccinated with direct protection against HPV infection and associated disease”, yet argues that there is insufficient cost-effectiveness to vaccinating boys due to the ‘herd immunity’ effect of the vaccination of girls.
However, HPV Action, a campaign group of which the Faculty is a member, estimates that vaccinating boys would cost no more than £22m a year, and that the existing secondary care costs of treating HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer alone are likely to exceed £21m.
FGDP(UK) has previously highlighted the critical role of GDPs in detecting oral cancer, and a survey of FGDP(UK), BDA and BMA members published in April showed that 97% of dentists and 94% of GPs backed expansion of the vaccination programme to boys.
Dr Mick Horton, Dean of FGDP(UK), said:
“It is astonishing that the Government’s vaccination advisory committee is planning to recommend that men are not given a level of immunity which the NHS already provides to women, and from a vaccine which it acknowledges is just as effective for men. The JCVI’s position will cost lives, and as it consults on its position it should start listening to the dentists and doctors who see the devastation that HPV-related cancers wreak on patients and their families.”
The Faculty also encourages dentists to help speed up cancer diagnoses by making written information available to encourage patients with suspected cancer to attend their referral appointments.
The JCVI statement is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/630125/Extending_HPV_Vaccination.pdf
Oral and HPV-related cancer statistics are sourced from Cancer Research UK and HPV Action.
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