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a boy vaccination imageDecember 19 2017

Levels of human papilloma virus vaccination among girls is inconsistent, which is one reason why boys should be vaccinated too, a new campaign proposes.

Jabs for the Boys is calling for ‘gender-neutral’ HPV vaccination of all 12-13 years olds, male and female. The Royal Society for Public Health, which is backing the campaign, said that “in several areas in the UK the vaccination rate for girls is well below 80%, compromising herd protection and leaving both men and women at risk.”

It also noted that:

  • HPV causes 5% of all cancers in men and women;
  • there are around 2,000 cancer cases and 48,000 genital warts cases caused by HPV in men every year in the UK;
  • men can still get HPV from sexual contact with women who have not been vaccinated;
  • only one in eight adults in the UK associate HPV with diseases that affect men.

The campaign is headed up by HPV Action but is supported by almost 50 patient and professional organisations working to reduce the health burden of HPV. Its Jabs for Boys website sets out how HPV affects boys and men, and offers advice and guidance about the pros and cons of HPV vaccination.

“When HPV vaccination began in the UK in 2008, there was less evidence about the cancers the virus could cause in men. And some people also think that, by vaccinating girls, boys are also protected,” says the website.

“So what’s the problem? We now know that HPV causes cancers of the penis, anus, head and neck as well as genital warts in men. Also, vaccinating girls does not in fact protect all boys and men. That’s why boys and men should consider HPV vaccination too.”

Shirley Cramer, RSPH Chief Executive, said: “We were exceptionally disappointed by the initial decision of the JCVI [Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation] in July not to recommend the extension of HPV vaccination to all adolescent boys. While we wait indefinitely for the final decision, the Jabs for the Boys initiative represents a welcome step towards increasing public awareness of HPV.

“Now, more than ever, it is crucial that men, boys and their parents understand the risks that HPV poses and the benefits of the HPV vaccine: HPV-related cancers are increasing and boys and men remain at risk. Jabs for the Boys serves as a vital resource providing expert advice and accurate information.”

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, RSPH Trustee, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation and member of the Jabs for the Boys expert advisory group, added: “One of our key principles when creating the guidance for Jabs for the Boys was to only include information based on the best-possible evidence. It means that everything on the website has been checked by medical and other experts and is compiled in line with NHS England Information Standard guidance.

“HPV-related cancers are on the increase. They affect everybody, both men and women, so it is vitally important that we become more engaged with learning more about it. Jabs for the Boys is an invaluable resource for anybody looking to learn more about HPV.”

Links:
Jabs for the Boys                
RSPH announcement      

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