Boys to be given HPV vaccine to reduce cancer rates

Henrietta Brewer
July 10, 2019

"Following the success of the vaccination programme for girls, it is only right that boys are now afforded the same protection". This includes cervical, penile, anal and genital cancers and some cancers of the head and neck - all of which the vaccine helps to protect against.

"All of the things you enjoy are gone".

Jamie, from Falkirk, had never heard of HPV when he found a small, disc-shaped lump growing in his neck.

After being identified with oropharyngeal cancer in 2010, at the age of 44, he had a tonsillectomy and then 6 weeks of chemotherapy and 6 of radiotherapy.

He needed therapy to retrain his muscles so he could talk again - and he was left with very little saliva, making eating and even drinking water a real challenge.

All that took its toll, Jamie said.

"I became very depressed and it was two years before I started to feel normal again".

How do boys get the vaccine?

The National Health Service (NHS) will offer the vaccine free to boys in Year Eight of secondary schools across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland - 11 years after the measure was introduced for girls.

As a result of health policy is devolved within the United Kingdom, timings, and arrangements will differ slightly throughout the different nations.

They will need two doses of the jab in order to be fully protected, with a follow-up dose administered six months to two years after the first.

The HPV jab now used by the NHS is Gardasil, which protects against HPV for at least 10 years and possibly a lifetime.

A Scottish study also showed that the vaccine has reduced pre-cancerous cervical disease in women by up to 71 per cent.

- Worldwide, about five per cent of all cancers are linked to the HPV virus. By this time, the teenagers being vaccinated now will be in the group that would typically be affected by HPV related cancers.

HPV is a virus transmitted though intimate skin-to-skin contact.

This means the virus can be spread during any kind of sexual activity, including touching.

Older boys (those now aged 13 to 18) will not be offered the vaccine on a "catch-up" basis.

More than 100,000 cases of cancer will be prevented under plans to give boys the HPV jab as well as girls, health officials have said.

Girls can continue to have a catch-up jab up to the age of 25. HPV can also cause cancers in the vulva, vagina, penis, or anus. Teenage boys were also benefited through this vaccination as the virus did not get passed on to them. All the boys in the country will be given vaccinations after the summer.

Cases of genital warts have also declined by 90 per cent in girls aged 15 to 17 and 70 per cent in boys of the same age bracket due to the HPV vaccine. These have concluded that the HPV vaccine is safe and effective. Experts said the introduction of HPV vaccines for boys will play a vital role in eradicating all the diseases caused to this infection in the future.

"The latter is now increasing in incidence, but this trend will be turned around as the vaccination programme takes effect in the future".

The Royal College of Nursing's Helen Donovan said: 'While the prevention of cervical cancer has been the main aim of the HPV vaccination programme, emerging evidence suggests the vaccine prevents cancers in both sexes.

"I encourage all parents of eligible boys and girls to make sure they take up the offer for this potentially life-saving vaccine", Dr Ramsay said.

Until now, only teenage girls have been given the free vaccine, with parental consent, which protects against cervical cancer.

Robert Music, chief executive of Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust, said: "HPV does not discriminate".

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