Adolescent boys in England may in future be vaccinated against the human papillomavirus (HPV), following a recommendation from the government’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.
The recommendation — to offer the vaccine to boys aged 12 and 13 years as part of a gender-neutral national vaccination programme — could protect them from cancer risks associated with the HPV virus if they go on to have sex with men or with women who have not been vaccinated, the committee concluded.
The committee also decided that expanding the existing vaccination programme — which currently applies to girls aged 12 to 13 years — would be cost effective in the long run.
The report, published on 18 July 2018, said: “A gender-neutral programme would potentially provide optimal protection to men who have sex with men, by offering vaccination before the age of sexual debut.
“A gender-neutral programme is likely to be more robust with respect to potential short-term fluctuations in uptake and may reduce the overall burden of HPV-related malignancy sooner than a girls-only programme.”
The recommendation contradicts interim advice it issued in July 2017, which concluded that offering the vaccine to boys would not be cost effective.
However, the committee has now changed its mind following further analysis which suggested that expanding the programme to boys would be cost effective in the longer term.
The recommendation is now being considered by the Department of Health and Social Care. In a statement, it said: “We are carefully considering [the committee’s] advice and will update on a decision shortly.”
In the meantime, both the Scottish and Welsh governments have agreed to act on the recommendation and have announced they will expand their HPV vaccination programmes to adolescent boys aged 12 to 13 years.