HPV jab should be given to boys, committee says

A jab that protects against a virus that causes cervical cancer should also be given to boys, an advisory committee has recommended.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation recommends a “gender neutral” HPV vaccination programme.

The vaccine is routinely offered to girls aged 12 to 13 at secondary school and is free up until they turn 18.

The committee advises extending immunisation to adolescent boys at the same age as girls.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said it was carefully considering the committee’s advice and would provide an update on its decision shortly.

HPV is the name given to a large group of viruses.

It is very common and can be caught through any kind of sexual contact with another person who already has it.

Doctors say most HPV infections go away by themselves – but sometimes infections can lead to a variety of serious problems.

For boys, this includes cancer of the anus, penis, mouth and throat.

The vaccine has been offered to girls since 2008 as part of the NHS childhood vaccination programme.

‘Cost-effective’

But campaigners have long since argued that it should also be offered to boys to further reduce the risk of HPV infection, pointing to successful vaccination programmes in other countries.

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.”

Last year the JCVI was criticised after it said there was little evidence to justify vaccinating boys too.

The campaign group HPV Action welcomed the JCVI’s statement this year and called for the Department of Health and Social Care to accept its findings.

The Royal Society for Public Health RSPH, said the decision was “a victory for the public’s health”.

Chief executive, Shirley Cramer, said: “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.”

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BBC News – Health

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