Calls strengthen for HPV vaccine for boys
The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine began to be implemented in the UK in 2008. It started by immunising girls between 12 and 13 years old, and was also offered to girls up to the age of 18 the following year, for a two year period. The aim was to immunise society through “herd protection”, not necessitating the wider immunisation of older women or of boys.
The HPV vaccine is given to girls because the virus causes nearly all cases of cervical cancer in women. In the UK, approximately 3,100 cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed every year but as research has developed, the vaccine has been found to reduce incidence of other types of cancer.
This means that the current line, of only vaccinating girls, is becoming harder to maintain and is now being challenged by different sources.
Many countries around the world already immunise boys, including the US, Canada and Australia, and the WHO recommends that all countries that can afford it do the same. The UK’s position, as the fifth largest economy, then stands as an anomaly and counter to guidance.
HPV is a condition that is commonly transmitted by sexual intercourse and there are rising incidence of throat cancer in men that are linked to the virus. Part of the thinking of only vaccinating girls was that this would stem the spread to boys without needing to vaccinate them as well.
Mike Freer, a Conservative MP who has been vocal in his opposition to this stance, was reported to have said: “The increase in HPV related cancers is worrying and the small cost of the vaccine far outweighs the treatment costs of the cancers that can arise from the virus.”
Beyond this, a doctor based in Devon, has also joined the chorus calling for an extension to immunisation – taking the action of having her own boys immunised privately at a cost £540. However, this is a sum that many families would not be able to bear and wider pressure is being placed on the government to provide equality of immunisation.
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