A group of leading parliamentarians with a special interest in public health, have joined calls for all adolescent boys, as well as girls, be human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccination as part of an extension of the programme beyond 12-13 year-olds.
HPV is the cause of 5% of all human cancers, specifically cervical, oropharyngeal, anal, penile, vaginal and vulval cancers. HPV also causes genital warts. These diseases affect males as well as females; indeed, it has been estimated that in the UK over 2,000 cases of cancer in men are caused each year by HPV as are some 48,000 cases of genital warts.
The UK’s HPV vaccination programme currently reaches more than 80% of girls, but the MPs, which include the chair's of APPGs on cancer, dentistry, sexual health, men's health and HIV, say there are many communities where coverage rates are much lower. As a result, they advocate vaccinating boys in order to protect females in these groups from cervical cancer and other HPV-related diseases.
In a statement, John Baron MP, Sir Paul Beresford, Baroness Joyce Gould, Lord Patel of Bradford, Pamela Nash MP and Mike Freer MP wrote: "We believe the long-term savings in treatment and care of men with HPV-related diseases would considerably outweigh the additional cost of extending the vaccination programme to boys; this cost is in any event relatively small, possibly no more than £20-22 million a year. But the decision to vaccinate both sexes should not just be about money: it should also be about increasing equity in health between men and women, improving public health and, above all, reducing human suffering."
The MPs have now pledged their support to HPV Action, a collaborative partnership of patient and professional organisations that advocates gender-neutral HPV vaccination.