The government’s vaccination advisory committee (JCVI) has announced that HPV vaccinations will be offered to men aged up to 45 who have sex with men (MSM) but campaigners would like to see this go further.
The vaccinations, which will be available via sexual health clinics, are an addition to the existing vaccination programme for 12/13 year old girls. HPV Action, a coalition of 43 patient and professional organisations including the Men's Health Forum wants to see vaccination extended to all boys.
Human papilloma virus (HPV) is a very common sexually transmitted infection that can cause a range of cancers (cervical, vaginal, vulval, penile, anal, and oral) as well as genital warts. HPV Action estimates that, each year, HPV causes over 2,000 cases of cancer and 48,000 cases of genital warts in men; in women, it causes almost 5,000 cases of cancer and over 39,000 cases of genital warts. The incidence of anal cancer is highest in MSM and particularly in HIV-positive men.
HPV Action Campaign Director Peter Baker labelled the new plans 'unacceptable' and said: 'HPV Action hopes the government now makes a speedy decision to vaccinate all boys.' He identifies three reasons why the current programme is insufficient:
- Just vaccinating girls and MSM leaves men who have sex with women at risk of infection by women who have not been vaccinated in the UK or other countries
- Vaccinating MSM who attend sexual health clinics is not the best way to protect the MSM population as a whole (many MSM do not attend sexual health clinics and the average age of first attendance is 28)
- Immunity against HPV is greatest if the vaccine is administered before age 16.
HPV Action estimates that it would cost no more than £22m a year to vaccinate boys and, depending on the vaccine price, possibly as little as £12m.