Boys in the UK should be offered vaccination against human papillomavirus (HPV)

David Mitchell, Riccardo Audisio, Garth Cruickshank, Stephen Cannon, Talvinder Gill, Andrew Hayes, Sean Kehoe, Jim McGuigan, Barry Powell, Nick Price, Nicholas Roland, Lynda Wyld

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Wise reported that of 74% of the girls and young women who were offered vaccination against human papillomavirus (HPV) only half the women not in education, employment, or training were included in the offer.1

Much more concerning is the fact that oropharyngeal cancer driven by HPV has the fastest rising incidence of any cancer, yet no boys in the United Kingdom are offered vaccination.

We have written to express our concern at the UK policy with regard to vaccination against HPV, which actively discriminates against men and boys, and are disappointed by the lack of response. A reply to similar concerns expressed in the Houses of Parliament demonstrates the resistance to offering gender neutral vaccination is based, without evidence, on the idea that this is a problem that only affects men who have sex with men.2

An abundance of evidence demonstrates the involvement of HPV 16 and 18 in the dramatic increase in incidence of oropharyngeal carcinoma.3 Although this is commoner in younger, more active, members of the population and is easier to treat in non-smokers, the burden on survivors is considerable. The disease remains more common in men and boys.

Australia agreed to vaccinate boys with the quadrivalent vaccine at ages 12-13 years with a catch up at 14-15 during 2014. The UK continues to exclude boys from this effective preventive programme for malignant disease.

There is no scientific argument against the clinical benefit of sex neutral vaccination at 12-13 years. It is purely financial. We think that the devastating effects and cost in terms of both treatment and care for the younger working age survivors have been grossly underestimated.

Australia has clearly come to the conclusion that this important preventive initiative can be made cost effectively. We must also recognise that the potential for deliberate sex discrimination has to be avoided.

This decision must now be revisited at the earliest opportunity.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberg3762
JournalBMJ
Volume348
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jun 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

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