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HPV vaccine 'should be given to boys'

The government has been urged to extend human papillomavirus vaccination to all boys.

The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) revealed concerns that the Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisation (JCVI) would not reach a decision on whether to extend the vaccinations by the end of 2016. 

In a paper written by RSPH, the group called for the government to: 

- Explore piloting the HPV vaccine to men who have sex with men (MSM) in a range of settings, including gyms. 

- Provide males with the same protection against genital warts that is currently offered to girls through Gardasil. 

- Ensure that the cost per dosage for the vaccine takes into account the lower cost per quality adjusted life years (QALY) for boys. 

Exploring a range of settings could reduce the risk of dropping out, the group claims. 

Shirley Cramer, CEO of RSPH welcomed any proposed move to extend the vaccination to MSM, but reiterated that providing the vaccine to boys in schools would be a more straightforward approach.  “Given the strong association between HPV and oral, anal and penile cancers, and the  prevention of genital warts, it makes absolute sense that the vaccine  should be extended to males. HPV doesn't discriminate between the sexes, and we would urge the JCVI to ensure that the vaccine is offered in  schools to boys.”

“While moves to extend the vaccination to MSM (who currently do not  receive protection through herd immunity), is a step forward, we should  be introducing the vaccination before the age of sexual debut, and the  school setting provides an ideal environment to ensure boys complete  both doses.  If the vaccine is not offered within a school setting, and  is received after the age of 14, then an additional dose of the vaccine  is required, and there may be a danger of drop out in completing all 3  doses required to guarantee HPV immunity.”

In addition to exploring the setting in which a vaccination is offered,  the RSPH argues that research on hepatitis B suggests that offering incentives, such as small amounts of cash and supermarket vouchers can help encourage individuals to complete the full dose of treatment. 

A range of incentives  appropriate for the setting could be introduced. For example, those  accessing the vaccine through a gym could receive a free period of gym  membership as an incentive to complete all doses; or students could be  offered food vouchers to be used within the university.