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Boys to receive HPV vaccine

Estimated read time: 2 mins

Carrie Tennick, July 09, 2019

Public Health England has announced that from September 2019, 12 and 13-year-old boys will be offered the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine.

This will be the first time boys can receive the jab. Girls have been offered the vaccine since 2008 and more than 80% of women aged 15 to 24 have received it.

What is HPV?

HPV is a group of viruses affecting the skin and moist membranes lining the body. There are more than 100 types of HPV. It can often be a harmless virus, which the body eradicates on its own. However, some forms of the virus can lead to cancer.

Public Health England reported that roughly 5% of global cancers are linked to HPV. This includes cervical, penile, anal and genital cancers and some cancers of the head and neck, including throat. The vaccine helps protects against all of these cancers.

The body also highlighted how cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women under 35 and is responsible for the deaths of around 850 women every year. HPV is thought to cause 99% of cervical cancer cases.

Why will boys receive the vaccine?

Although cervical cancer is the most widely known HPV-related cancer, there are many other forms of the disease that affect men.

Public Health England estimates that nearly 29,000 cancers will be prevented in men up to 2058 as a result of the vaccine.

HPV is spread through sexual activity, meaning that by vaccinating boys, their future partners will be protected too.

Between 2008 and 2058, Public Health England estimates that the vaccine will prevent almost 85,000 cancers in women.

The response

Head of immunisation at Public Health England Dr Mary Ramsay said: “This universal programme offers us the opportunity to make HPV-related diseases a thing of the past and build on the success of the girls’ programme.

“Offering the vaccine to boys will not only protect them but will also prevent more cases of HPV-related cancers in girls and reduce the overall burden of these cancers in both men and women in the future.”

Public health minister Seema Kennedy added that the vaccine’s success for girls “is clear” and that, by extending it to boys, more cases of HPV-related cancer will be prevented every year.

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