London Friend welcomes the JCVI recommendation to extend HPV vaccinations to men who have sex with men, but calls on the Government to vaccinate all boys
Yesterday the Government’s advisory group the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) published its advice on extending the HPV vaccine to men who have sex with men (MSM). It recommends that men up to 45 should be able to receive the vaccine through a programme delivered in GUM clinics. Currently the vaccination is delivered only to girls, with the implication that most men will be indirectly protected through sexual contact with vaccinated women.
London Friend is a member of HPV Action, a coalition of 43 patient and professional organisations that advocates gender-neutral HPV vaccination. We believe the vaccinations for MSM are a step forward but that this change in policy does not go nearly far enough. What is urgently needed is a decision to vaccinate all adolescent boys. With every year that passes, 400,000 more boys are left unprotected against HPV-related diseases. This is unacceptable.
Human papilloma virus (HPV) is a very common sexually transmitted infection that can cause a range of cancers (cervical, vaginal, vulval, penile, anal, and oral) as well as genital warts. HPV Action estimates that, each year, HPV causes over 2,000 cases of cancer and 48,000 cases of genital warts in men; in women, it causes almost 5,000 cases of cancer and over 39,000 cases of genital warts. The incidence of anal cancer is highest in MSM and particularly in HIV-positive men.
Vaccinating just girls and MSM is not sufficient for these reasons:
- Just vaccinating girls and MSM leaves men who have sex with women (MSW) at risk from infection by women who have not been vaccinated in the UK or other countries.
- Vaccinating MSM who attend sexual health clinics is not the best way to protect the MSM population as a whole. This is because many MSM do not attend sexual health clinics and the average age of first attendance is 28. Despite advice that MSM should have an HIV and STI screen at least annually, and every three months if having unprotected sex with new or casual partners, an estimated 16% of MSM who are living with HIV remain undiagnosed.
- Immunity against HPV is greatest if the vaccine is administered before age 16.
The most effective way to protect MSM – and MSW – is therefore to protect all boys through a vaccination programme for all boys and girls aged 12/13.
Today the Terrence Higgins Trust’s Director Executive Director of External Affairs, Dr Sean Griffin, has said “The Government already spends £60 million per year on treating genital warts which if left untreated can cause head and neck, penile and anal cancers. It is estimated that it would cost just £22 million per year to make the HPV vaccine available to all school-aged boys.”
London Friend continues to support HPV Action in its call to extend vaccinations to all boys. You can find out more about the campaign at hpvaction.org