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expert reaction to the news that the government has announced that adolescent boys in England will be offered the HPV vaccine

The government has announced that adolescent boys in England will be offered the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine.


Dr David Elliman, Consultant in Community Child Health, said:

“The decision to role out the HPV vaccine to boys is to be welcomed.  The JCVI agreed that it would undoubtedly be of benefit, but were constrained by the rules of cost effectiveness modelling.  Now boys will also be able to benefit from the vaccine in the same way that girls have.  We hope that the change in rules that presumably underlies this decision, will also be applied to other health promotion activities in childhood.”


Prof Peter Openshaw, President of the British Society for Immunology, said:

“The British Society for Immunology welcomes today’s announcement from the Government that they will fund the provision of the HPV vaccine to adolescent boys in England.  Numerous scientific studies have shown that the HPV vaccine is safe and highly effective in providing protection against diseases caused by the human papilloma virus, such as genital warts, and a variety of cancers including those of the anus, mouth and throat.  In the UK, the introduction of the HPV vaccine to girls in 2008 to prevent cervical cancer proved to be a major step forward in public health, significantly decreasing HPV infections in 16–21 year old women by 86%.  I’m pleased to see that boys will now also be able to reap the health benefits that this vaccine confers.

“The Department of Health and Social Care now need to work with vaccine manufacturers to ensure that a national rollout of this vaccine to boys can begin as soon as possible.  Alongside the rollout, it’s also crucial that we redouble efforts to actively communicate the important health benefits of this vaccine to parents and children.

“Vaccines are one of the most cost-effective and successful measures we have to save lives and improve public health over the whole lifespan.  Today’s announcement does leave some questions that still need to be answered in the wider field of vaccine provision.  We call on the Government to carefully consider the responses to its recent consultation on the ‘Cost-Effectiveness Methodology for Vaccination Programmes & Procurement (CEMIPP) Report’ to ensure that the UK retains its position at the forefront of vaccine provision.”


Prof Helen Bedford, Professor of Child Public Health, Institute of Child Health, UCL, said:

“Infection with HPV can lead to cancer in males as well as in females, so it is welcome news that the Government has announced the extension of the HPV vaccine programme to include teenage boys in England.  We are already seeing the benefits of the HPV vaccine programme among girls with dramatic reductions in HPV infections that can lead to cancer.  Boys have gained some protection from this vaccine programme through community immunity.  The extension of the programme is an important and welcome development that will ensure that all boys are afforded protection against HPV infections that can lead to cancers of the mouth and throat, penis and anus.”


Prof Margaret Stanley FMedSci, Emeritus Professor of Epithelial Biology and Research Visitor in the Department of Pathology, University of Cambridge, said:

“In my opinion this is very welcome news.  Although the HPV vaccine girls programme has been a stunning success in the UK the addition of boys will save more lives.  HPV vaccination protects all men against HPV cancers and warts irrespective of their sexual preferences.  Without vaccination men have very poor protection against infection with the cancer and wart causing HPVs since they make poor antibody responses to natural HPV infections but excellent responses to HPV vaccination.  Immunising men (the other 50% of the population) gives additional protection to women – after all it takes two to tango.  Keeping vaccine coverage at high levels is essential for continued protection and immunising boys reduces the risk to the programme if the uptake of the vaccine in girls falls for any reason.”




Declared interests

Prof Peter Openshaw: “Prof Peter Openshaw’s research is funded by the Wellcome Trust, the MRC, BBSRC and the European Union. He has received honoraria or consultancy fees from GSK, Janssen, and Mucosis BV.”

Prof Helen Bedford: “I have no conflicts of interest.”

None others received.



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