A VACCINATION against the human papilloma virus (HPV) is currently offered to all girls aged between 12 and 13 as part of the NHS childhood vaccination programme. Now the Government has refused to extend the offer to boys.
Girls were chosen to receive the vaccination initially because around 80% of cases of cervical cancer are caused by the HPV virus. Since the vaccination programme began, the number of cases of cervical cancer has dropped sharply.
Medics suggested that the vaccination now be offered to boys as well to reduce cancer rates even further. The HPV virus can be transferred between boys and girls during sexual contact (including contact short of intercourse). Across the world, statistics show that as the rate of girls infected with HPV drops through vaccination, infection rates in boys decrease too. Conversely, if infection rates in boys could also be reduced by vaccination, infection rates in girls would be expected to drop still further – with a commensurate drop in cancer cases.
It’s not just rates of cervical cancer that would be affected. The British Dental Association has pointed out that HPV is a leading cause of some oral cancers – and the rate of these cancers could be reduced by vaccinating boys as well as girls.
However, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has announced that it does not believe that vaccinating boys “would not represent good use of NHS resources.”
Shirley Cramer of the Royal Society for Public Health said: “We hope that the government’s advisory committee reconsider this decision as soon as possible and put the public’s health and wellbeing before cost-saving.”
The JCVI decision will now be put out to public consultation until the autumn, when final decision on the future of the vaccination programme will be made.