HPV victory! Fantastic news as health chiefs back giving boys the jab
Hundreds of thousands of teenage boys are to be given the HPV vaccine to protect them against cancers, according to press reports at the weekend.
The Mail on Sunday which has been running a six-month campaign to extend the NHS immunisation programme to boys said that the government’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) had reversed its long-standing opposition to the move.
The breakthrough came at a meeting earlier this month to review action against the cancer-causing human papillomavirus (HPV).
Since 2008, the vaccine against the virus has been given to teenage girls on the NHS because HPV causes cervical cancer which kills about 1,000 women a year. Around 500 women a year also die from other HPV-related cancers.
But HPV is also a known cause of some 2,000 male cancers resulting in around 650 deaths a year, mainly from mouth and throat forms of cancer.
The JCVI had previously argued that it was not cost-effective to extend the vaccination programme to boys, but campaigners including myself pointed to the suffering caused by the cancers plus the savings that would be made in not having to treat so many patients.
I am proud to have played a role in raising the issue of including boys in the NHS immunisations.
I was an early champion of the cause and encouraged colleagues to support the campaign group HPV Action. I also played a part in getting the Mail on Sunday to take up the campaign by highlighting the unfair treatment to boys.
In April I met MP Sir Roger Gale, along with Peter Barker, Campaign Director for HPV Action, and we successfully persuaded him to request a parliamentary debate on the subject which was held in early May.
The decision of the JCVI still has to be considered by the Department of Health and Social Care but observers say the government is unlikely to go against the advice of its own experts and Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt will make an announcement in mid-July.
Dozens of medical professional bodies supported the campaign to extend the vaccination programme.
One of the leading organisatons is the Throat Cancer Foundation (TCF) which launched a public appeal for funds to bring a judicial review against the government on the grounds of sex discrimination.
So a big thank you to all who supported the campaign and appeal for funds as it all added to pressure to help bring about change – your support has truly helped save lives!
Information on the HPV action campaign is at www.hpvaction.org