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HPV vaccination will be offered to adolescent boys, the UK government announces

The vital vaccination is currently only given to teenage girls to reduce cervical cancer numbers

By Steve Brown

The HPV vaccine will be given to adolescent boys following updated evidence published last week.

The vaccine – which is given to protect against HPV-related diseases such as throat, oral and anal cancers – will be offered to boys aged between 12 and 13 after it was only given to teenage girls as a way to reduce the number of cervical cancers in women.

But the move to offer the vaccine to boys follows the publication of updated evidence last week by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) which recommend that existing HPV vaccination programmes for should be extended to boys.

Public Health Minister Steve Brine said: “The HPV vaccine for girls is already expected to save hundreds of lives every year and I am delighted that we will now be protecting even more people from this devastating disease by extending the vaccine to boys.

“Any vaccination programme must be firmly grounded in evidence to ensure that we can get the best outcomes for patients, but as a father to a son, I understand the relief that this will bring to parents.

“We are committed to leading a world-class vaccination programme and achieving some of the best cancer outcomes in the world – I am confident these measures today will bring us one step further to achieving this goal.”

The extension of the vaccine to boys builds on the success of England’s HPV vaccination programme for girls and the recent introduction of a programme for men who have sex with men (MSM).

England will now be one of a small number of countries to offer HPV vaccination for both girls and boys– which is estimated to save hundreds of lives every year.

Cancer continues to take too many lives and tears families apart – this government is determined to achieve the best cancer outcomes in the world, and the extension of this programme builds upon this commitment.

Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisations at PHE, said: “I’m pleased that adolescent boys will be offered the HPV vaccine. Almost all women under 25 have had the HPV vaccine and we’re confident that we will see a similarly high uptake in boys.

“This extended programme offers us the opportunity to make HPV related diseases a thing of the past and build on the success of the girls’ programme, which has already reduced the prevalence of HPV 16 and 18, the main cancer-causing types, by more than 80 per cent.

“We can now be even more confident that we will reduce cervical and other cancers in both men and women in the future.”

Boys aged 12-13 will be eligible for the programme, which is expected to vaccinate thousands of boys in England each year.

Robert Music, Chief Executive, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust said: “It is fantastic that boys are to be offered the same protection against HPV-related cancers as girls.

“The girl’s vaccination programme has significantly reduced HPV prevalence among young women which will result in fewer cancer diagnoses in years to come.

“Extending the vaccine to boys means we will see even more cancers prevented and lives saved.

“There is wide variation in uptake of the current vaccination programme across the country so ensuring people understand the benefits of the vaccine and take up the opportunity must remain a priority.”

Ian Green, Chief Executive at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “We welcome this announcement from the Government.

“Terrence Higgins Trust has campaigned on equal access to the HPV vaccine for years now, as the right to protection from HPV should not be based on someone’s gender or their ability to pay privately for the vaccine.

“The UK Government must urgently implement this decision to ensure boys are vaccinated as soon as possible, in a programme that should be made available alongside the existing girls’ immunisation programme in schools.”