In Scotland, girls from around the age of 12 and 13 are now offered a vaccine to protect against the human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes the majority of cases of cervical cancer, with a catch-up campaign for older pupils.
But doctors at the British Medical Association (BMA) conference in Liverpool yesterday argued that the programme should be extended to cover boys as well.
Experts believe this could stop boys passing HPV to unvaccinated girls. Doctors also said that if the Government had chosen a different vaccine, it could also have helped protect both boys and girls from genital warts.
Dr Sohail Ashraf, from the Preston, Chorley and South Ribble BMA division, said HPV was the most common sexually transmitted viral infection in the UK. “The majority don’t even know they are infected and may be passing the virus on to their partners,” he said.
Dr Ashraf congratulated the UK governments for introducing the HPV vaccination programme. But he said they had “missed a trick” in not appearing to recognise that HPV infection affects both male and females.
The vaccine chosen for the programme – Cervarix – is effective against two strains of HPV, whereas rival Gardasil also protects against two strains linked to genital warts.
Dr Ashraf said: “I believe we have to argue for Gardasil as the extra marginal cost of this vaccine will more than pay for itself in future years due to the reduced cost of treating genital warts.”
He said sexually active 20 to 24-year-olds were most at risk of HPV infection, adding: “Recent research figures suggest that many young women may become infected with their first sexual experience and the risk infection increases with the number of sexual partners.
Sir Charles George, chairman of the Board of Science at the BMA, said the Government’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation had said immunisation of boys was not necessary. He said: “If we follow what is recommended here (at the conference) the cost of the programme will presumably double, which means around £400 million a year rather than £200 million.”
Despite this warning, doctors backed calls for boys to be vaccinated as well as girls – a stance previously backed by other medical groups. In Scotland, figures in March showed that uptake of the first of dose of HPV vaccine was over 92 per cent, with 88 by the second dose of the three-dose course. A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The question of whether to immunise boys against HPV was considered by the UK Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation, who did not consider immunising boys to be a cost-effective way to prevent cervical cancer in girls.”
Sarah Woolnough, head of policy at Cancer Research UK, said:
“The (Scottish) Government must do more to publicise the benefits of vaccination and ensure that girls can have the vaccine easily.”
Comment from Leslie
Boys had many more reactions from the HPV vaccine in premlimary trials than girls. Just like infanat boys have higher rates of Autism from childhood vaccinations. Testosterone absorbs the heavy metals that are used as adjuvants in the vaccines – estrogen to some extent repels them. Which is why the highly athletic, competitive and scholarly girls receiving the HPV vaccine are so adversely affected.