GPs in Richmond upon Thames and the local Council are welcoming the introduction of the cancer preventing HPV vaccine that will be available to boys aged 12 to 13 in local schools from September.
In men, many cancers of the mouth, throat, genitals and bottom are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). It can also cause warts on the genitals, skin, voice box and vocal cords (laryngeal papillomas) and verrucas.
Among girls, HPV is also responsible for the majority of cervical cancers. In the UK, girls, aged 12 to 13 have been offered the HPV vaccine since 2008 – resulting in a reduction in the number of HPV-related infections.
Nationally, the number of people with mouth and throat cancer caused by HPV is increasing. However, it is estimated that through vaccination the number of people developing these cancers will reduce in the future.
Public Health England estimates that by offering the vaccine to boys and girls, by 2058 it will prevent more than 114,000 people getting cancer. This includes 64,000 cases of cervical cancer and 29,000 cancers in men.
HPV infections can be spread by skin-to-skin contact and are usually found on the fingers, hands, mouth and genitals. The HPV vaccine works best if boys and girls receive it before they become sexually active.
In Richmond, the vaccine will be available to boys aged 12 and 13 in all secondary schools from the start of the autumn school term.
Dr Graham Lewis, Chair of NHS Richmond Clinical Commissioning Group and a local GP, said:
“There is nothing better for health than prevention, so I welcome the news that the HPV vaccination will be extended to boys from September. I encourage all parents of eligible boys and girls to make sure they take up the offer for this potentially life-saving vaccine.
“In time, this will lead to a significant reduction in cancers of the anus, penis and mouth and throat. It’s important not to delay vaccination, as the vaccine may be less effective as boys get older.”
Cllr Piers Allen, Chair of the Adult Social Services, Health and Housing Services Committee, said:
“Allowing boys to have this important vaccination is very welcome as it will undoubtedly reduce the risk of young men contracting cancers linked to the virus in adult life.
“Given the growing body of evidence that HPV is also responsible for a range of cancers that can affect men, this is a very important step.
“Following the success of the vaccination programme for girls, it is only right that boys are now afforded the same protection.”
Dr Deborah Turbitt, London health protection director at Public Health England, said the programme could “make HPV-related diseases a thing of the past”.
The Royal College of GPs said: “The potential of this vaccine to save lives and prevent the complications of cancer is huge, and since it has been available on the NHS for girls, it has had excellent take-up, with impressive results – it’s important this success is replicated with boys.”
Robert Music, chief executive of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, said the move was a “huge leap forward”.