BASHH condemns JCVI interim decision denying HPV vaccine for boys

20th July 2017

The British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) has condemned the interim recommendation from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) not to extend the UK human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccination programme to include boys.

The JCVI, which met on the 7th June to consider the case for extending the HPV vaccination programme, cited concerns around the cost-effectiveness of such an extension in its interim statement published today.

Whilst the existing HPV vaccination programme offers indirect protection against HPV-related disease for some heterosexual boys through ‘herd immunity’, significant numbers of men are still likely to have sex with unvaccinated partners putting themselves at risk of acquiring HPV-related disease.

Extending the vaccine to boys would also help to improve sexual health outcomes for men who have sex with men (MSM), who are currently the only group that remain completely unprotected from the existing programme. MSM are disproportionately affected by HPV-related disease and have poorer sexual health outcomes in general, with data showing there was an 11.4% increase in newly diagnosed anogenital wart cases in 2016 compared with 2012. Results from Natsal 3 indicate that 7% of men aged 16-44 years have had a same-sex sexual experience - likely an underestimate – meaning there is a clear case for improving the protection offered against HPV-related disease to boys.

Commenting on the announcement, Dr Elizabeth Carlin, BASHH President said:

The announcement from the JCVI is deeply disappointing, and represents a significant missed opportunity to reduce the threat of HPV and secure a more equitable vaccination programme across the UK. The decision means that boys will continue to receive only indirect protection against HPV,leaving many at risk of acquiring harmful and costly HPV-related disease such as genital warts, which currently costs the NHS almost £60m a year to treat.

Extending the vaccine to boys would have also helped to improve sexual health outcomes for MSM, who are disproportionately affected by HPV-related disease and remain the only group completely unprotected from the existing vaccination programme.

Failing to ensure that boys and MSM are adequately protected against HPV is a false economy, the costs of which will be borne by the NHS for years to come.

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