Public health authorities are considering whether the UK human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination programme should be extended to teenage boys.
There is debate over whether it is cost effective to offer the vaccination to boys aged 12
13 years in order to protect those who will later be at particular risk from HPV by having sex with other men.
“Vaccinating boys would be useful in boosting herd immunity in the male and female adult population if the uptake of the HPV vaccine was low in girls,” says Kate Soldan, head of HPV surveillance at Public Health England (PHE).
But Soldan says in the UK the uptake has been “very high” – some 80% of girls aged 12
13 years have been vaccinated since it was introduced as part of the national childhood vaccination programme in 2007. In the United States, the uptake has been 50% of the target group, she said.
Soldan said extending vaccination to boys in the UK is likely to provide relatively few additional benefits, and under current assessment conditions may not be the best use of healthcare resources.
“Some males, particularly men who have sex with men, are likely to gain far less protection from HPV through herd immunity from the vaccination of females.”
She said the cost effectiveness of vaccinating men who have sex with men is still unclear, although results from one study in the United States suggest there may be some benefits.
The review of the current HPV programme and the logistics and cost benefits of extending the programme to all boys and girls aged 12
13 years was discussed this week by the HPV subcommittee of the government’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which advises UK health departments on immunisation.
Any recommendation from the subcommittee will go to the full committee of the JCVI which meets on 1 October 2014.
The review comes as PHE is collaborating with researchers at University College London on a study that focuses on behaviour and HPV prevalence among men who have sex with men, and is looking at potential design and implementation of a targeted vaccination policy.
Separately, Austria’s HPV vaccination programme will begin vaccinating all boys and girls against HPV in September 2014 with the Gardasil vaccine, according to manufacturer MSD.
- On 25 September 2014 at 16:50, this article was updated to correct a misquote of Kate Soldan.