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Evidence bolsters case for HPV vaccine

Overwhelming evidence supports extending the HPV vaccine to boys, the BMA has declared.

Board of science chair Sheila HollinsLast month, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation recommended that the vaccine be given to gay men attending GUM (genitourinary medicine) clinics.

Although the BMA supports this group having access to the HPV vaccine, it also wants the immunisation programme to be extended to all boys, as well as girls, before they start having sex.

In a letter to public health minister Jane Ellison, BMA board of science chair Baroness Sheila Hollins (pictured above) says the BMA believes there is now a strong case for expanding the school-based HPV vaccination programme to include boys, on the grounds of efficacy and equity.

She writes: ‘To ensure vaccine recipients are protected against HPV infection, they must receive the immunisation prior to the initiation of sexual activity.

‘There is significant concern that only providing immunisation at GUM clinics would not effectively achieve this.

'The optimum age for boys to receive the HPV vaccine is 12 to 13 years, yet young gay men do not commonly declare their sexual orientation before their late teens, or may be unaware of their sexual orientation and would therefore be unlikely to attend GUM clinics at this age.’

Discrimination claim

Baroness Hollins adds that providing the vaccine only to gay men discriminates against heterosexual men who remain at risk of acquiring HPV from unvaccinated women.

The BMA argues that as the number of vaccination doses given to an individual has reduced from three to two, this frees up capacity to extend the vaccination programme in schools.

Baroness Hollins adds: ‘There is growing consensus in the UK and internationally that extending vaccination to all boys represents the only effective, equitable solution to ensure all are protected against HPV infection.

‘The BMA is therefore calling on the Department of Health to follow the lead set by Australia, Canada and the USA, and introduce universal HPV vaccination without delay.’

Earlier this year, the BMA annual representatives meeting called for the current school-based HPV vaccination for girls to be extended to include all boys.

The HPV vaccine was introduced to protect women against cervical cancer, but evidence has since emerged of HPV’s role in a range of cancers affecting men, and also being responsible for nearly all cases of genital warts.

Read London consultant in genitourinary medicine Eleanor Draeger's blog on the HPV vaccine

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