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Government rejects expert demands for HPV catch-up vaccines in older boys

The Government has rejected calls from medical leaders to offer boys aged 14 to 18 years old ‘catch-up’ HPV vaccinations.

In a letter sent to public health minister Steve Brine and signed by more than a dozen medical leaders, experts argued that vaccinating girls ‘does not sufficiently protect males against HPV infection’ and urged the Government to run a catch-up HPV scheme for teenage boys who will miss out on the vaccine.

But the Department of Health and Social Care told Pulse that there was not a strong enough case for the catch-up programme.

Earlier this year, the Government announced that boys in England aged between 12 and 13 would be given the HPV vaccine, previously only offered to girls, following a recommendation from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.

However, unlike the 2008 introduction of the vaccine for girls, no catch-up scheme for boys aged 14 to 18 years was announced.

HPV Action, a group made up of over 50 patient and professional organisations, challenged this in a letter to Mr Brine this week.

It said: ‘The vaccination of girls does not sufficiently protect males against HPV infection; this is especially true for men who have sex with men.

‘We believe that, on the grounds of both equity and improved health, the opportunity must be seized to vaccinate as many boys as possible while still at school and urge you to re-consider this matter.’

But the DHSC told Pulse that there for would be ‘limited additional benefit’ to offering the vaccine to older boys and that its priority was to ‘vaccinate adolescents before they reach sexual maturity’.

A spokesperson said: ‘This extension will strengthen protection by improving herd immunity and prevent more cases of HPV-related cancers. Our priority is ensuring this extension is implemented as soon as possible and protects as many eligible boys and girls as possible.’

HPV Action also raised concerns over the number of clinics offering the vaccine, saying that they had not increased significantly beyond those participating in the pilot programme.

NHS England said that the roll out of clinics offering the programme is expected to be complete by April 2019.

This comes after recent PHE-backed research found that since 2010, the HPV vaccine had reduced HPV infections in women by almost 90%.

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