HPV: Boys should be given cancer-preventing jab, says vaccination body

Immunisations advisory body concludes 'gender neutral' vaccination likely to be cost effective

Alex Matthews-King
Health Correspondent
Wednesday 18 July 2018 13:30 BST
Boys should be vaccinated at secondary school at the same time as girls
Boys should be vaccinated at secondary school at the same time as girls (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Vaccination against the cervical cancer-causing human papillomavirus (HPV) should be extended to boys, the government advisory body on immunisations has recommended.

After an inquiry into the cost-effectiveness of broadening the HPV jab programme, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) backed a “gender neutral” scheme.

Since 2008, HPV vaccination has been routinely offered to girls aged 12 to 13 at secondary school and is free on the NHS up until their 18th birthday, but there have been been growing demands to extend immunisation to boys.

The JCVI advised extending immunisation to adolescent boys at the same age as girls.

Charities and medical experts have been lobbying for the change and welcomed the news calling for vaccination of boys to begin in 2019 “at the latest”. The recommendation is likely to be backed by the government which said it would respond shortly.

The sexually transmitted HPV virus is responsible for virtually all of the 3,100 cervical cancers diagnosed in the UK each year, and up to five per cent of all cancers, charities said.

Vaccination massively reduces cervical cancer cases, and the need for costly screening, and also prevents against growing rates of mouth, throat and genital cancers, and genital warts, which can all affect men and women.

In July last year, an interim statement by the JCVI said it could not recommend extension of the national HPV programme.

However a report by the committee, published on Wednesday, said: “If considering a cost-effectiveness analysis where a combined girls’ and boys’ programme is compared to no vaccination, gender-neutral HPV vaccination is highly likely to be cost-effective.”

This decision was changed after evidence put forward in the consultation suggested that HPV was responsible for 60 per cent of mouth and throat cancers, rather than 30 per cent assumed in earlier tests.

It also better accounts for the lifelong protection it gives and broader protection to groups who are harder to reach with adult vaccination programmes, including men who have sex with men.

“The JCVI’s advice that boys should be vaccinated is very welcome news for boys and their parents,” said Peter Baker, director of campaign group HPV Action.

“It will also benefit those girls who for whatever reason have not been vaccinated against HPV.

“We have waited a very long time for this announcement and it is now imperative that ministers accept the JCVI’s advice without delay so that no more boys are left at risk."

Shirley Cramer CBE, chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health, said: “The JCVI’s decision to advocate for a gender neutral vaccination programme against HPV is a victory for the public’s health.

“Boys have been left insufficiently protected against HPV for too long and it is good news that the UK is following in the footsteps of the other 20 countries already vaccinating boys against HPV.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said: “The Government takes advice from an independent expert committee – the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) – when making decisions on vaccination programmes.

“We are carefully considering their advice and will update on a decision shortly.”

Additional reporting by PA

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in