After years of campaigning, we welcomed the announcement by the UK Government that the HPV vaccine will be extended to boys in England. This followed similar announcements from the governments of Scotland and Wales.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common infection that can be easily passed on through skin-to-skin contact, including during sex.
Four strains of HPV can cause genital infections. They cause most cases of cervical cancer in women as well as other cancers in both men and women, including oral and anal cancer, and genital warts.
HPV continues to impact on boys and men. In Britain each year, HPV causes around 1,400 head and neck cancers, 350 penile cancers, and nearly 400 anal cancers.
Across England, Scotland, and Wales all girls are offered the HPV vaccine in school in Year 9 (aged 13-14 years).
Thanks to pressure from the HPV Action coalition, of which we’re a member, the JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) has advised that the UK, Scottish and Welsh governments should vaccinate all boys aged 12-13 in school.
The Scottish Government has confirmed that it will be working with Health Protection Scotland and NHS Scotland to roll out the schools-based vaccination programme to boys as soon as practicable.
Both the UK and Welsh Governments commenced the roll-out of the vaccine for boys in September 2019. Disappointingly, however, both administrations have ruled out introducing a catch-up programme for boys and instead only providing the vaccine for boys aged 12 and 13.
Among eligible girls, around 15% did not complete the HPV vaccine course in 2016/17. This presents a real and pressing challenge to ensure that both girls and boys are fully protected from HPV in adult life.
In Wales and Scotland, all gay and bisexual men up to the age of 45 have been offered the HPV vaccine in sexual health clinics since 2017. England followed suit in April 2018, following a year-long pilot.
We believe that access to the HPV vaccine should not be based on sex, as everyone is at risk. There is increasing evidence of HPV-related head and neck cancers, anal cancer and penile cancer in men, as well as warts.
While we welcomed the rollout of the programme for girls and gay and bisexual men, as well as the planned rollout of the programme for boys in Scotland, England and Wales, there remain pressing questions about how to protect school aged boys through a catch-up programme who are not eligible for the planned rollout as they are aged over 13.
There are a number of scenarios that could put men and any subsequent partners at risk, for example if a man has sex with a woman who was too old to be eligible for the HPV vaccine programme or a woman from a country that does not have an HPV vaccine programme.
These risks remain the same for boys who aged 12 and 13, and for those aged 13-18, and that is why a catch-up programme for all secondary-school aged boys is required now.
If you have any questions about the campaign in England, please contact Amber Newbigging-Lister at [email protected].
For any questions about the campaign in Wales please contact Ceri Dunstan at [email protected].