The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is known to cause cancer in both men and women and the virus is carried by both sexes although, in the UK so far, only girls who have not been exposed to the virus are being vaccinated. There has been much debate about whether or not vaccinating boys would be cost effective but next year the vaccine will be offered to boys of 12 and 13 years in Australia as part of their National Immunisation Program. This is mainly down to their very successful immunisation of girls and women, which began in 2007 and which has caused rates of cervical cancer to decrease significantly since.
The American Academy of Paediatrics changed their previous guidance in order to recommend that boys be included in the population of those who have the HPV vaccination available to them. This follows a recommendation for the vaccination of boys by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in the US.
With such positive statistics reported over the last 5 years in Australia, it has got to be a good idea to vaccinate boys and to not have to rely on the effects of ‘herd immunity,’ which would mean that boys would inadvertently be protected from the virus over time due to the mass vaccination of young girls. This form of indirect immunisation would not include men who have sex with men (MSM) who would therefore have derived no protection.
This is an expensive vaccine but as long as it’s working we can be reassured that the money which would have been spent on treating HPV related cancers can instead be put back into vaccination funding and ultimately into protecting the population from this sexually transmitted and potentially cancer-causing virus.