GPs in Harrow 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 verccuas. 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 Harrow, the vaccine will be available to boys aged 12 and 13 in all secondary schools from the start of the autumn school term.
Dr Genevieve Small, Chair of NHS Harrow CCG and a local GP, said: “I applaud the news that the HPV vaccination will be extended to boys. 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.”
Carole Furlong, Director of Public Health for Harrow Council said: “I’m so pleased that we will be introducing this important vaccination for boys in the new school year. We are hopefully going to see a generation of young people growing up without the fear of developing an HPV-related cancer. I strongly recommend that all parents get their sons and daughters vaccinated against HPV.”
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.” Meanwhile Robert Music, chief executive of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, said the move was a “huge leap forward”.