HPV vaccination extended to thousands of boys in England
The UK government announced the extension of HPV vaccine programme to boys in a bid protect against several different kinds of cancer.
The decision ended years of deliberations and campaigning and brought the policy into line with Scotland and Wales.
Thousands of boys aged between 12 and 13 in England will now have an access to a free vaccinations against human papilloma virus (HPV) following new scientific evidence and advice from an independent panel of experts.
The same vaccine has been available to girls in similar age since 2008 in England, with boys being left aside, while Scotland and Wales cover both sexes equally under a devolved vaccination programme.
Campaigners, including health professionals, were pressuring the UK government for the last few years to streamline the NHS childhood vaccination programme across the country and give young boys access to free HPV vaccine.
HPV, which can be transmitted sexually, in most cases clears itself, however, it presents a risk of serious oncological complications and conditions such as cervical cancer in girls and additionally anus, penis, mouth and throat cancer in 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 vaccines 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”.
Mary Ramsay, head of immunisations at Public Health England, added: “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 over 80%.“
“We can now be even more confident that we will reduce cervical and other cancers in both men and women in the future.”
The decision has been applauded by Jamie Rae, who headed one of the campaign #ourboysdeservbetter: “We're absolutely delighted and thank everyone who has pledged to our case which has helped us to keep up the pressure on the Joint Committee on Vaccination immunisation and avoided the issue being kicked into the long grass once again," Rae said.