A decade after UK health officials first implemented routine human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination in adolescent girls, the government has extended their immunization program to include boys, based on the conclusion of a five-year evidence review by scientists on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI).
Initially developed to protect women against the two HPV strains associated with the highest risk of cervical cancer and the two strains that cause 90 percent of genital or oral warts, multiple studies have shown that immunizing females before or soon after they become sexually active can also prevent cancers of the mouth, anus, throat, and head and neck. The newest approved vaccine, which is administered in a series of two or three injections depending on the patient’s age, includes antigens for a total of nine high-risk and wart-associated strains.
“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%,” Peter Openshaw, president of the British Society for Immunology, told the Science Media Centre in response to the announcement. “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.”