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9th Jul 2019

Extended HPV Vaccinations could prevent over 100,000 cancers

Tens of thousands of cancers could be prevented as a result of the HPV vaccinations being offered to boys as well as girls after the summer. 

That is the estimate given by Public Health England (PHE) today as it officially announced that the vaccine will be offered to boys aged 12 and 13 for the first time from September (full details here).

Girls have been receiving the vaccine as part of the NHS childhood vaccination programme since 2008 to protect against cervical cancer.

After a long and hard-fought campaign by medical professionals and organisations in which I played a significant role, the Government agreed to extend the programme to boys. This followed evidence of an increase in other HPV-related cancers, in particular mouth and throat cancers which are more prevalent among men.

HOPES OF ENDING SOME HPV-RELATED CANCERS

Analysis by the University of Warwick shows that almost 85,000 cancers in women and just under 29,000 in men – most of them mouth or throat cancers –  could be prevented over the next 40 years as a result of the HPV vaccination programme.

Dr Mark Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at Public Health England, says: “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.”

EVIDENCE ALREADY OF DROP IN CANCER RATES

I was delighted to go on the Vanessa Feltz show on BBC Radio London (play at 1hr 18 mins) to talk about the impact of extending the immunisation programme to boys.

Already there is evidence showing that since 2008 there has been a significant drop in the rates of pre-cervical cancer among young women. I expect a similar decrease will occur for men in relation to HPV-related cancers.

Public Health Minister Seema Kennedy is hopeful that cervical cancer can be eradicated completely.

She says: “Through our world-leading vaccination programme, we have already saved millions of lives and prevented countless cases of terrible diseases. Experts predict that we could be on our way toward eliminating cervical cancer for good.”

MAKE SURE YOUR CHILDREN GET THE HPV VACCINATION JAB

Boys aged 12 and 13 in England, Northern Ireland and Wales, along with boys aged 11 and 12 in high schools in Scotland, will be offered the vaccine in secondary schools from the start of the next school term.

Because health policy is devolved in the UK, timings and arrangements will vary slightly across the different nations.

I would echo the message of Public Health England and encourage all parents to ensure their children have the vaccine against the human papilloma virus (HPV).

Parents of girls and boys entering school year 8 can look out for information from their children’s school about the vaccine and timings for the jab. If they miss out on the vaccination for any reason they should talk to their school nurse/immunisation team about getting the vaccine at a later date.

More information about HPV vaccinations for parents and their children is available here (see HPV).

Read another blog post on the positive impact of the HPV Vaccinations – read article.

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