Gay men 'should be given HPV vaccine' that protects against cancers

Draft guidelines by a medical advisory committee call for the jab programme to be extended

The HPV vaccine should be extended to gay men, according to a medical advisory committee.

Men who have sex with men should be vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV) because they are at high risk of contracting the virus, the Joint Commission on Vaccination and Immunisation has said.

The HPV jab was made available to schoolgirls in the UK in 2008, but there have been calls for the programme to be extended.

HPV is a sexually transmitted virus that accounts for 5 per cent of all cancers worldwide, including head, neck and anal cancers, as well as cervical cancer in women and penile cancer in men. Some low-risk strains also cause genital warts.

JCVI had previously said it would not be cost-effective to vaccinate adolescent boys against HPV - but the committee said this would not be the case with gay men.

In draft recommendations it stated: “JCVI did not recommend vaccinating boys at this time as it was considered unlikely to be cost-effective. The committee considered that high coverage in girls would provide herd protection to boys, and that vaccination of boys would generate little additional benefit to the prevention of cervical cancer, which was the main aim of the programme.

“Additionally, JCVI agreed that there was insufficient evidence on the protective effects of the vaccine against cancers affecting males such as anal, head and neck cancers. JCVI agreed that when more data became available, high-risk groups such as men who have sex with men would be considered.”

It added that since the programme was introduced evidence has emerged that immunisation is likely to provide protection against a wider range of HPV-related diseases.

It recommended offering the vaccine to gay men aged between 16 and 40 at sexual health clinics.

A revision of whether teenage boys should be offered the jab will be conducted by the committee in 2015.

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