The HPV vaccine should be offered to boys as well as girls to protect them against genital warts, doctors and medical students have said.
London consultant in genitourinary medicine Eleanor Draeger told the BMA annual representative meeting in Harrogate that denying boys the benefit of a vaccination programme is sexist and discriminatory to all boys and men.
She said that experience in Australia showed that vaccinating boys against HPV reduced the incidence of genital warts in women, heterosexual men, and men who have sex with men.
The ‘herd immunity’ generated by vaccinating girls did not protect men who had sex with men, she said, and it wasn’t possible to tell with 12-year-olds whether they would go on to have sex with men, women, or both.
‘You can’t go looking at people aged 12 and go “you’re a bit camp, I’ll vaccinate you”,’ she said.
‘And herd immunity only works for men who have sex with women from the UK who have been vaccinated.’
Role in cancer
As well as being implicated in cervical cancer – which the vaccination programme is intended to address – genital warts also have a role in other cancers, she added.
She said the move would be cost-effective because it would reduce the burden of genital warts in GUM clinics. ‘It’s a huge burden of morbidity,’ she said.
Medical student Stuart Innes backed the call. ‘At 12 years old most children won’t know their sexuality,’ he said. ‘I’m gay, but when I was 12 years old I was more interested in whether Harry Potter would beat Lord Voldemort.’
BMA public health medicine committee co-chair Penelope Toff said the issue was being considered by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, and called on doctors to send a clear message in favour of including boys in the vaccination programme.
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