A leading campaign group has welcomed reports that boys will be offered the HPV vaccine, saying it will protect 400,000 youngsters a year from diseases.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), an expert advisory group, has reportedly told health ministers vaccinating boys will be cost-effective and the programme is set to be signed off by Jeremy Hunt, according to media report the other day.
HPV Action, which has been calling for the vaccination for five years, said the news was ‘very encouraging’ and urged the Government to act fast.
Campaign director Peter Baker said: ‘The decision to vaccinate boys is long overdue, but still very welcome indeed.
‘It will ensure that boys have the same level of protection against a range of cancers and genital warts that girls have had since 2008.
‘We now urge the Government and the vaccine manufacturers to move quickly to ensure that there is no further delay.
‘With each year that passes without vaccination for all, 400,000 more boys are left at risk of the diseases caused by HPV.’
The Mail on Sunday report claims the JCVI switched its advice to conclude vaccinating boys would be worthwhile, after previously saying it would not be cost-effective.
The paper said the advice was not due to be made public until mid-July, but had been passed to ministers already.
The move would bring the UK into line with around 20 other countries which already recommend vaccination for both sexes.
The British Dental Association (BDA), a member of the HPV Action coalition, has also praised the potential move.
HPV has emerged as the leading cause of oral cancer, especially among young people, and rates are rising steeply. It is linked to 5% of all cancers worldwide, including some that affect only men.
Over the last decade, oral cancer has increased by almost a quarter in the UK, making it one of the fastest rising types of cancer in the country, and is increasing more rapidly among men than among women.
BDA chair Mick Armstrong said: ‘Protecting boys from HPV would be a welcome sign that ministers are finally willing to walk the walk on prevention.
‘Over 30 people in Britain are diagnosed with oral cancer every day, and dentists are often the first to spot the tell-tale signs.
‘We now have an historic opportunity to protect all our children from the life changing and often fatal diseases HPV can cause.’
A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman would not confirm the reports, but said: ‘The Government takes advice from an independent expert committee – the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation – when making decisions on vaccination programmes.
‘We will carefully consider its advice on HPV once received.’