Tag Archives: vaccine

Call to extend HPV vaccine to boys as cancer rates soar

Health officials will come under increasing pressure to extend vaccination against the cancer-causing human papilloma virus to young men. Doctors say new figures, to be released in a few weeks, will show that rates of head and neck cancers in men are now rising so quickly that it is imperative the policy is reversed.

At present, in Britain, only young women are offered the HPV vaccine, which protects them against cervical cancer. Boys are not given the vaccine, even though the virus is known to cause cancers of the head and neck in men in later life. Health officials have argued that administering the vaccine to boys is not cost-effective.

However figures being compiled by doctors are expected to show that the prevalence in men of oropharyngeal cancer – as the condition is known clinically – has soared. Rates are now extremely close to overtaking those of cervical cancer. In the past, rates lagged well behind those of cervical cancer.

Health experts say that an increase in oral sex is in part responsible for the spread of HPV and for the dramatic jump in neck and head cancers, which tend to have poor long-term survival rates.

“To be blunt, the case for giving the vaccine to boys as well as girls is now unequivocal as far as I am concerned,” said Professor Mark Lawler, of Queen’s University Belfast. “We have a chance to eradicate both these conditions – cervical as well as neck and head cancers – and we should not be hesitating.”

A vaccine that could prevent HPV infections was developed a decade ago, and from 2008 was used in the UK to inoculate schoolgirls against some cervical cancers.

Many other nations have since followed suit, though take-up has been patchy in some countries, such as Japan and Denmark. Here campaigns on social media in the past few years have rebuilt confidence in the vaccine after widespread – but unfounded – concerns about its safety.

In the UK, all schoolgirls are offered the vaccine from the age of 12 or 13, although there is an opportunity to be given the vaccine up to the age of 18. The take-up rate is more than 85%.

It is too early to say how cervical cancer rates have been affected by the vaccine programme, although these have been dropping in general thanks to improved NHS screening services.

By contrast, rates of head and neck cancers have continued to soar in men across the world. Its prevalence is three to four times greater than it was 20 years ago and in many nations it is now the fastest-increasing cancer.

As a result, many countries, including Australia and Canada, have decided to give the HPV vaccine to boys. “In total, 15 nations have now launched vaccination schemes for boys or have announced that they intend to launch one,” said Gillian Prue of Queen’s University Belfast.

By contrast, Britain has been slow to respond, although the Department of Health did recently announce that it was rolling out a programme in England later this year which would allow men who have sex with other men to be provided with the vaccine.

The situation was described as unsatisfactory by Professor Margaret Stanley of Cambridge University. “In the UK, there are now only two groups of people who cannot get the vaccine on the NHS: women who are over 18 and men who are straight,” she said.

“That is a crazy situation, and one that is grossly unfair. I would have thought those who are currently campaigning for equal rights for men and women throughout society would be jumping up and down about this. This is not an expensive vaccine, after all, and it will undoubtedly save lives.”

Call to extend HPV vaccine to boys as cancer rates soar

Health officials will come under increasing pressure to extend vaccination against the cancer-causing human papilloma virus to young men. Doctors say new figures, to be released in a few weeks, will show that rates of head and neck cancers in men are now rising so quickly that it is imperative the policy is reversed.

At present, in Britain, only young women are offered the HPV vaccine, which protects them against cervical cancer. Boys are not given the vaccine, even though the virus is known to cause cancers of the head and neck in men in later life. Health officials have argued that administering the vaccine to boys is not cost-effective.

However figures being compiled by doctors are expected to show that the prevalence in men of oropharyngeal cancer – as the condition is known clinically – has soared. Rates are now extremely close to overtaking those of cervical cancer. In the past, rates lagged well behind those of cervical cancer.

Health experts say that an increase in oral sex is in part responsible for the spread of HPV and for the dramatic jump in neck and head cancers, which tend to have poor long-term survival rates.

“To be blunt, the case for giving the vaccine to boys as well as girls is now unequivocal as far as I am concerned,” said Professor Mark Lawler, of Queen’s University Belfast. “We have a chance to eradicate both these conditions – cervical as well as neck and head cancers – and we should not be hesitating.”

A vaccine that could prevent HPV infections was developed a decade ago, and from 2008 was used in the UK to inoculate schoolgirls against some cervical cancers.

Many other nations have since followed suit, though take-up has been patchy in some countries, such as Japan and Denmark. Here campaigns on social media in the past few years have rebuilt confidence in the vaccine after widespread – but unfounded – concerns about its safety.

In the UK, all schoolgirls are offered the vaccine from the age of 12 or 13, although there is an opportunity to be given the vaccine up to the age of 18. The take-up rate is more than 85%.

It is too early to say how cervical cancer rates have been affected by the vaccine programme, although these have been dropping in general thanks to improved NHS screening services.

By contrast, rates of head and neck cancers have continued to soar in men across the world. Its prevalence is three to four times greater than it was 20 years ago and in many nations it is now the fastest-increasing cancer.

As a result, many countries, including Australia and Canada, have decided to give the HPV vaccine to boys. “In total, 15 nations have now launched vaccination schemes for boys or have announced that they intend to launch one,” said Gillian Prue of Queen’s University Belfast.

By contrast, Britain has been slow to respond, although the Department of Health did recently announce that it was rolling out a programme in England later this year which would allow men who have sex with other men to be provided with the vaccine.

The situation was described as unsatisfactory by Professor Margaret Stanley of Cambridge University. “In the UK, there are now only two groups of people who cannot get the vaccine on the NHS: women who are over 18 and men who are straight,” she said.

“That is a crazy situation, and one that is grossly unfair. I would have thought those who are currently campaigning for equal rights for men and women throughout society would be jumping up and down about this. This is not an expensive vaccine, after all, and it will undoubtedly save lives.”

Call to extend HPV vaccine to boys as cancer rates soar

Health officials will come under increasing pressure to extend vaccination against the cancer-causing human papilloma virus to young men. Doctors say new figures, to be released in a few weeks, will show that rates of head and neck cancers in men are now rising so quickly that it is imperative the policy is reversed.

At present, in Britain, only young women are offered the HPV vaccine, which protects them against cervical cancer. Boys are not given the vaccine, even though the virus is known to cause cancers of the head and neck in men in later life. Health officials have argued that administering the vaccine to boys is not cost-effective.

However figures being compiled by doctors are expected to show that the prevalence in men of oropharyngeal cancer – as the condition is known clinically – has soared. Rates are now extremely close to overtaking those of cervical cancer. In the past, rates lagged well behind those of cervical cancer.

Health experts say that an increase in oral sex is in part responsible for the spread of HPV and for the dramatic jump in neck and head cancers, which tend to have poor long-term survival rates.

“To be blunt, the case for giving the vaccine to boys as well as girls is now unequivocal as far as I am concerned,” said Professor Mark Lawler, of Queen’s University Belfast. “We have a chance to eradicate both these conditions – cervical as well as neck and head cancers – and we should not be hesitating.”

A vaccine that could prevent HPV infections was developed a decade ago, and from 2008 was used in the UK to inoculate schoolgirls against some cervical cancers.

Many other nations have since followed suit, though take-up has been patchy in some countries, such as Japan and Denmark. Here campaigns on social media in the past few years have rebuilt confidence in the vaccine after widespread – but unfounded – concerns about its safety.

In the UK, all schoolgirls are offered the vaccine from the age of 12 or 13, although there is an opportunity to be given the vaccine up to the age of 18. The take-up rate is more than 85%.

It is too early to say how cervical cancer rates have been affected by the vaccine programme, although these have been dropping in general thanks to improved NHS screening services.

By contrast, rates of head and neck cancers have continued to soar in men across the world. Its prevalence is three to four times greater than it was 20 years ago and in many nations it is now the fastest-increasing cancer.

As a result, many countries, including Australia and Canada, have decided to give the HPV vaccine to boys. “In total, 15 nations have now launched vaccination schemes for boys or have announced that they intend to launch one,” said Gillian Prue of Queen’s University Belfast.

By contrast, Britain has been slow to respond, although the Department of Health did recently announce that it was rolling out a programme in England later this year which would allow men who have sex with other men to be provided with the vaccine.

The situation was described as unsatisfactory by Professor Margaret Stanley of Cambridge University. “In the UK, there are now only two groups of people who cannot get the vaccine on the NHS: women who are over 18 and men who are straight,” she said.

“That is a crazy situation, and one that is grossly unfair. I would have thought those who are currently campaigning for equal rights for men and women throughout society would be jumping up and down about this. This is not an expensive vaccine, after all, and it will undoubtedly save lives.”

Call to extend HPV vaccine to boys as cancer rates soar

Health officials will come under increasing pressure to extend vaccination against the cancer-causing human papilloma virus to young men. Doctors say new figures, to be released in a few weeks, will show that rates of head and neck cancers in men are now rising so quickly that it is imperative the policy is reversed.

At present, in Britain, only young women are offered the HPV vaccine, which protects them against cervical cancer. Boys are not given the vaccine, even though the virus is known to cause cancers of the head and neck in men in later life. Health officials have argued that administering the vaccine to boys is not cost-effective.

However figures being compiled by doctors are expected to show that the prevalence in men of oropharyngeal cancer – as the condition is known clinically – has soared. Rates are now extremely close to overtaking those of cervical cancer. In the past, rates lagged well behind those of cervical cancer.

Health experts say that an increase in oral sex is in part responsible for the spread of HPV and for the dramatic jump in neck and head cancers, which tend to have poor long-term survival rates.

“To be blunt, the case for giving the vaccine to boys as well as girls is now unequivocal as far as I am concerned,” said Professor Mark Lawler, of Queen’s University Belfast. “We have a chance to eradicate both these conditions – cervical as well as neck and head cancers – and we should not be hesitating.”

A vaccine that could prevent HPV infections was developed a decade ago, and from 2008 was used in the UK to inoculate schoolgirls against some cervical cancers.

Many other nations have since followed suit, though take-up has been patchy in some countries, such as Japan and Denmark. Here campaigns on social media in the past few years have rebuilt confidence in the vaccine after widespread – but unfounded – concerns about its safety.

In the UK, all schoolgirls are offered the vaccine from the age of 12 or 13, although there is an opportunity to be given the vaccine up to the age of 18. The take-up rate is more than 85%.

It is too early to say how cervical cancer rates have been affected by the vaccine programme, although these have been dropping in general thanks to improved NHS screening services.

By contrast, rates of head and neck cancers have continued to soar in men across the world. Its prevalence is three to four times greater than it was 20 years ago and in many nations it is now the fastest-increasing cancer.

As a result, many countries, including Australia and Canada, have decided to give the HPV vaccine to boys. “In total, 15 nations have now launched vaccination schemes for boys or have announced that they intend to launch one,” said Gillian Prue of Queen’s University Belfast.

By contrast, Britain has been slow to respond, although the Department of Health did recently announce that it was rolling out a programme in England later this year which would allow men who have sex with other men to be provided with the vaccine.

The situation was described as unsatisfactory by Professor Margaret Stanley of Cambridge University. “In the UK, there are now only two groups of people who cannot get the vaccine on the NHS: women who are over 18 and men who are straight,” she said.

“That is a crazy situation, and one that is grossly unfair. I would have thought those who are currently campaigning for equal rights for men and women throughout society would be jumping up and down about this. This is not an expensive vaccine, after all, and it will undoubtedly save lives.”

Call to extend HPV vaccine to boys as cancer rates soar

Health officials will come under increasing pressure to extend vaccination against the cancer-causing human papilloma virus to young men. Doctors say new figures, to be released in a few weeks, will show that rates of head and neck cancers in men are now rising so quickly that it is imperative the policy is reversed.

At present, in Britain, only young women are offered the HPV vaccine, which protects them against cervical cancer. Boys are not given the vaccine, even though the virus is known to cause cancers of the head and neck in men in later life. Health officials have argued that administering the vaccine to boys is not cost-effective.

However figures being compiled by doctors are expected to show that the prevalence in men of oropharyngeal cancer – as the condition is known clinically – has soared. Rates are now extremely close to overtaking those of cervical cancer. In the past, rates lagged well behind those of cervical cancer.

Health experts say that an increase in oral sex is in part responsible for the spread of HPV and for the dramatic jump in neck and head cancers, which tend to have poor long-term survival rates.

“To be blunt, the case for giving the vaccine to boys as well as girls is now unequivocal as far as I am concerned,” said Professor Mark Lawler, of Queen’s University Belfast. “We have a chance to eradicate both these conditions – cervical as well as neck and head cancers – and we should not be hesitating.”

A vaccine that could prevent HPV infections was developed a decade ago, and from 2008 was used in the UK to inoculate schoolgirls against some cervical cancers.

Many other nations have since followed suit, though take-up has been patchy in some countries, such as Japan and Denmark. Here campaigns on social media in the past few years have rebuilt confidence in the vaccine after widespread – but unfounded – concerns about its safety.

In the UK, all schoolgirls are offered the vaccine from the age of 12 or 13, although there is an opportunity to be given the vaccine up to the age of 18. The take-up rate is more than 85%.

It is too early to say how cervical cancer rates have been affected by the vaccine programme, although these have been dropping in general thanks to improved NHS screening services.

By contrast, rates of head and neck cancers have continued to soar in men across the world. Its prevalence is three to four times greater than it was 20 years ago and in many nations it is now the fastest-increasing cancer.

As a result, many countries, including Australia and Canada, have decided to give the HPV vaccine to boys. “In total, 15 nations have now launched vaccination schemes for boys or have announced that they intend to launch one,” said Gillian Prue of Queen’s University Belfast.

By contrast, Britain has been slow to respond, although the Department of Health did recently announce that it was rolling out a programme in England later this year which would allow men who have sex with other men to be provided with the vaccine.

The situation was described as unsatisfactory by Professor Margaret Stanley of Cambridge University. “In the UK, there are now only two groups of people who cannot get the vaccine on the NHS: women who are over 18 and men who are straight,” she said.

“That is a crazy situation, and one that is grossly unfair. I would have thought those who are currently campaigning for equal rights for men and women throughout society would be jumping up and down about this. This is not an expensive vaccine, after all, and it will undoubtedly save lives.”

Afghan clerics in talks with Isis to break polio vaccine myths

Islamic clerics have agreed to work with the Afghan government to persuade militant groups in the country that vaccination programmes should be allowed in remote areas.

Imans are to consult with the Taliban, Islamic State and other factions in the mountainous Kunar province in a bid to get efforts to eradicate polio back on track, after six new cases were reported in Afghanistan this year.

Hard-line Islamist militants and clerics in the three countries where the disease still exists, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan, have been opposing polio vaccination campaigns, as myths have become ingrained that they are part of a conspiracy to sterilise Muslim children or a cover for western spies. There have been several attacks and killings of nurses and volunteers.

The Afghan government began a national immunisation campaign earlier this month, with around 70,000 workers knocking on doors and stopping families in health centres, streets and at border crossings. Almost 10 million children were vaccinated but a significant population lives in militant-controlled areas like Kunduz where Taliban insurgents last year banned inoculations.

The vaccination programme was badly discredited, after a fake campaign was used as cover in the US efforts to find Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.

Cleric Mawlawi Mohammad Ajmal, from Kunar, told the Guardian: “Islam won’t deny the treatment and prevention of sickness and disease, if our aim is to have a normal and healthy society then we need to allow and support health field workers and polio vaccinators to reach every child under five in each and every household, village and district.”

Mawlawi Abdul Khaliq, another religious leader from Kunar province, said: “Giving three drops of vaccine to every child under five is the guarantee for the polio-free life and polio-free generation, so we must support the vaccination campaign across the country and discuss this issue with the people who are in remote and mountainous regions.

“We are fully responsible for the next generation living in a polio-free environment,” he said. “The role of Islamic scholars is important.”

Nevertheless, cultural issues were still obstructing the vaccination campaign, said Gul Maki, a health worker in Kunar. “Cultural difficulties remain a crucial hurdle against female [health] workers. However, this doesn’t just affect the vaccination campaigns but every aspect of of daily life.”

He added: “The Taliban and Isis presence is huge and they are controlling most of the districts. Due to the worsening security, the vaccinators are unable to go there.”

Muhammad Ishaq, from the Afghan health ministry, confirmed that a three-year-old girl in Kunar had been diagnosed with polio. “The health ministry sent her tests to a laboratory in Islamabad and it has been confirmed that she is the latest victim of the crippling disease.”

Kunar’s public health director Aziz ur Rehman Safi said: “Due to the Isis ban on the vaccination drive … there is a fear that an estimated 12,000 children are unlikely to be vaccinated in the latest campaign.”

Clerics said they believe that by the end of 2017 polio vaccination teams had been unable to immunise more than 14,000 children in the province, and there were fears that this figure would continue to rise.

For health workers, administering the polio vaccinations continued to be dangerous work, said David Lai, World Health Organization Health Cluster Coordinator. “One polio worker was killed, one driver of an organisation working in health was killed and one other is still missing,” he said.

He also said a health facility in Nika, in south-eastern Pakita province, had been damaged in conflict and had ceased functioning.

Streptococcus vaccine ‘could prevent over 100,000 baby deaths worldwide’

More than 100,000 stillbirths and baby deaths worldwide could be prevented by the development of a vaccine against an infection commonly carried by pregnant women, according to a groundbreaking report.

The impact of disease caused by group B streptococcus (GBS) has not been properly chronicled before and only in relatively recent years has anyone taken seriously its role in the deaths of babies in the womb as well as in the early days of life.

Worldwide, more than 21 million pregnant women carry the bacteria which used to be thought harmless, say researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). Today it is recognised as a cause of septicaemia and meningitis in newborns, with potentially deadly effects, and also as a major cause of stillbirths, but vaccines against it are only now in development.

Eleven papers have been published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases and presented at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene Annual Meeting in Baltimore, revealing the scale of infection and the damage it causes. They say there are 410,000 cases of disease every year and 147,000 stillbirths and infant deaths. One in five pregnant women carries the bacteria, which can cause meningitis and also life-threatening septicaemia – blood poisoning – in them and their baby.

In wealthy countries, women thought to be at risk are given antibiotics in labour, but that does not prevent stillbirths and is not a practical solution for Africa and other developing countries where the infection rate is high. It could also contribute to antibiotic resistance, which is a global problem.

“Vaccines are the way to go,” said Joy Lawn, co-lead author of the papers and professor of maternal, reproductive and child health at the LSHTM. “They are on the way but it is going to be probably a five-year time horizon. The vaccine process needs to be accelerated. The World Health Organisation is already moving to make sure that when we get a vaccine it will be available for countries where the need is highest.”

In affluent countries, parent groups have called for more action against GBS, including universal testing to check whether pregnant women are carrying the bacteria.

“In the US particularly and also in the UK, it is an issue that is upsetting to parents, because neonatal death rates [in the first month of life] are quite low now and this happens to articulate, rich families; people don’t expect their children to die any more,” said Lawn.

But most of the focus has been on babies born alive who then become ill and die, or are damaged. There has been little attention to GBS as a cause of stillbirths. The team calculate it causes 90,000 infant deaths and 57,000 stillbirths worldwide at a very conservative estimate. There is no global goal to reduce stillbirths, as there is for newborns. “There are 2.6 million babies dying in the last three months of pregnancy, the same number as in the first month of life,” said Lawn. “For the baby who dies five minutes before birth, there isn’t a global goal.”

Stillbirths are under-investigated even in affluent countries, partly because of a sense of fatalism and also stigma. “People don’t know what the causes are. This [GBS] is an incredibly preventable cause,” said Lawn.

The researchers say that a vaccine which was 80% effective and reached 90% of women, could potentially prevent 231,000 infant and maternal cases of disease.

Dr Keith Klugman, director of the pneumonia team at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which funded the research, said: “The first few days and weeks of a baby’s life are the most vulnerable – by far. By filling in one of the great voids in public health data, this work provides crucial insight and shows the pressing unmet need for the development of an effective GBS vaccine. Immunising expectant mothers is a potentially groundbreaking approach that could dramatically reduce the number of maternal and child deaths.”

Johan Vekemans, co-author of the papers from the World Health Organisation, said an unacceptable number of families were affected. “It is now essential to accelerate the GBS vaccine development activities,” he said.

HPV vaccine: anger over decision not to extend NHS scheme to boys

A decision not to vaccinate boys against a cancer-causing sexually transmitted infection has been condemned by health bodies and campaigners.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which has been reviewing the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccination programme, concluded that it was “highly unlikely to be cost-effective” to extend the scheme to include adolescent boys as well as girls.

Since 2008, all girls aged 12 to 13 are offered the HPV vaccination as part of the NHS childhood vaccination programme, and the JCVI has been considering whether to include boys on the scheme since 2014.

Up to eight out of 10 people will be infected with the virus at some point in their lives and it has been linked to one in 20 cases of cancer in the UK, according to health professionals. Campaigners have been calling for a gender-neutral approach to the vaccination, which would ensure that 400,000 school-age boys are not left at risk.

The committee, which has yet to publish its final recommendation, said in an interim statement that studies “consistently show” boys are afforded “considerable herd protection” when there is high uptake of the vaccine in girls.

Critics called the decision “indefensible”. The Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH), a membership body for healthcare professionals who work in sexual and reproductive health, said the decision should be reversed when the JCVI meets again in October.

Asha Kasliwal, the FSRH president, said the interim decision to deny boys the HPV vaccination was a huge missed opportunity for improving long-term sexual and reproductive health outcomes and tackling gender inequality.

Kasliwal said: “FSRH aims to improve women’s sexual and reproductive health, especially access to contraception. However, HPV affects not only women, but also men, and FSRH firmly believes that men and boys are vital in contributing to secure women’s reproductive health and rights.

“We support boys’ and men’s right to access high-quality [sexual and reproductive healthcare] services and live a life free of sexually transmitted infections such as HPV.”

Peter Baker, director of the campaign group HPV Action, said the decision was about saving money and not improving health: “It is astonishing that the government’s vaccination advisory committee has ignored advice from patient organisations, doctors treating men with HPV-related cancers, public health experts and those whose lives have been devastated by HPV.”

Baker said HPV Action would urge ministers to make the right decision and said there might also be grounds for a legal challenge on the grounds that a decision to leave boys and men at risk breaches equality law.

A recent poll conducted by HPV Action showed that 94% of GPs backed the expansion of the programme, with the same proportion saying if they had a son, they would want them to receive the vaccination. Both positions were also supported by 97% of dentists.

Mick Armstrong, the chair of the British Dental Association, said: “HPV has emerged as the leading cause of oropharyngeal cancers, so JCVI’s unwillingness to expand the vaccination programme to boys is frankly indefensible. The state has a responsibility to offer all our children the best possible defence.

“Dentists are on the frontline in the battle against oral cancer, a condition with heart-breaking and life-changing results. Ministers can choose to sit this one out, or show they really believe in prevention.”

The JCVI said: “The JCVI is consulting on its interim findings to ensure that the most appropriate and up-to-date evidence has been used, and that reasonable assumptions have been made where evidence is limited or unavailable. Once the consultation is completed, the JCVI will develop and publish its final advice.”

HPV vaccine: anger over decision not to extend NHS scheme to boys

A decision not to vaccinate boys against a cancer-causing sexually transmitted infection has been condemned by health bodies and campaigners.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which has been reviewing the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccination programme, concluded that it was “highly unlikely to be cost-effective” to extend the scheme to include adolescent boys as well as girls.

Since 2008, all girls aged 12 to 13 are offered the HPV vaccination as part of the NHS childhood vaccination programme, and the JCVI has been considering whether to include boys on the scheme since 2014.

Up to eight out of 10 people will be infected with the virus at some point in their lives and it has been linked to one in 20 cases of cancer in the UK, according to health professionals. Campaigners have been calling for a gender-neutral approach to the vaccination, which would ensure that 400,000 school-age boys are not left at risk.

The committee, which has yet to publish its final recommendation, said in an interim statement that studies “consistently show” boys are afforded “considerable herd protection” when there is high uptake of the vaccine in girls.

Critics called the decision “indefensible”. The Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH), a membership body for healthcare professionals who work in sexual and reproductive health, said the decision should be reversed when the JCVI meets again in October.

Asha Kasliwal, the FSRH president, said the interim decision to deny boys the HPV vaccination was a huge missed opportunity for improving long-term sexual and reproductive health outcomes and tackling gender inequality.

Kasliwal said: “FSRH aims to improve women’s sexual and reproductive health, especially access to contraception. However, HPV affects not only women, but also men, and FSRH firmly believes that men and boys are vital in contributing to secure women’s reproductive health and rights.

“We support boys’ and men’s right to access high-quality [sexual and reproductive healthcare] services and live a life free of sexually transmitted infections such as HPV.”

Peter Baker, director of the campaign group HPV Action, said the decision was about saving money and not improving health: “It is astonishing that the government’s vaccination advisory committee has ignored advice from patient organisations, doctors treating men with HPV-related cancers, public health experts and those whose lives have been devastated by HPV.”

Baker said HPV Action would urge ministers to make the right decision and said there might also be grounds for a legal challenge on the grounds that a decision to leave boys and men at risk breaches equality law.

A recent poll conducted by HPV Action showed that 94% of GPs backed the expansion of the programme, with the same proportion saying if they had a son, they would want them to receive the vaccination. Both positions were also supported by 97% of dentists.

Mick Armstrong, the chair of the British Dental Association, said: “HPV has emerged as the leading cause of oropharyngeal cancers, so JCVI’s unwillingness to expand the vaccination programme to boys is frankly indefensible. The state has a responsibility to offer all our children the best possible defence.

“Dentists are on the frontline in the battle against oral cancer, a condition with heart-breaking and life-changing results. Ministers can choose to sit this one out, or show they really believe in prevention.”

The JCVI said: “The JCVI is consulting on its interim findings to ensure that the most appropriate and up-to-date evidence has been used, and that reasonable assumptions have been made where evidence is limited or unavailable. Once the consultation is completed, the JCVI will develop and publish its final advice.”

HPV vaccine: anger over decision not to extend NHS scheme to boys

A decision not to vaccinate boys against a cancer-causing sexually transmitted infection has been condemned by health bodies and campaigners.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which has been reviewing the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccination programme, concluded that it was “highly unlikely to be cost-effective” to extend the scheme to include adolescent boys as well as girls.

Since 2008, all girls aged 12 to 13 are offered the HPV vaccination as part of the NHS childhood vaccination programme, and the JCVI has been considering whether to include boys on the scheme since 2014.

Up to eight out of 10 people will be infected with the virus at some point in their lives and it has been linked to one in 20 cases of cancer in the UK, according to health professionals. Campaigners have been calling for a gender-neutral approach to the vaccination, which would ensure that 400,000 school-age boys are not left at risk.

The committee, which has yet to publish its final recommendation, said in an interim statement that studies “consistently show” boys are afforded “considerable herd protection” when there is high uptake of the vaccine in girls.

Critics called the decision “indefensible”. The Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH), a membership body for healthcare professionals who work in sexual and reproductive health, said the decision should be reversed when the JCVI meets again in October.

Asha Kasliwal, the FSRH president, said the interim decision to deny boys the HPV vaccination was a huge missed opportunity for improving long-term sexual and reproductive health outcomes and tackling gender inequality.

Kasliwal said: “FSRH aims to improve women’s sexual and reproductive health, especially access to contraception. However, HPV affects not only women, but also men, and FSRH firmly believes that men and boys are vital in contributing to secure women’s reproductive health and rights.

“We support boys’ and men’s right to access high-quality [sexual and reproductive healthcare] services and live a life free of sexually transmitted infections such as HPV.”

Peter Baker, director of the campaign group HPV Action, said the decision was about saving money and not improving health: “It is astonishing that the government’s vaccination advisory committee has ignored advice from patient organisations, doctors treating men with HPV-related cancers, public health experts and those whose lives have been devastated by HPV.”

Baker said HPV Action would urge ministers to make the right decision and said there might also be grounds for a legal challenge on the grounds that a decision to leave boys and men at risk breaches equality law.

A recent poll conducted by HPV Action showed that 94% of GPs backed the expansion of the programme, with the same proportion saying if they had a son, they would want them to receive the vaccination. Both positions were also supported by 97% of dentists.

Mick Armstrong, the chair of the British Dental Association, said: “HPV has emerged as the leading cause of oropharyngeal cancers, so JCVI’s unwillingness to expand the vaccination programme to boys is frankly indefensible. The state has a responsibility to offer all our children the best possible defence.

“Dentists are on the frontline in the battle against oral cancer, a condition with heart-breaking and life-changing results. Ministers can choose to sit this one out, or show they really believe in prevention.”

The JCVI said: “The JCVI is consulting on its interim findings to ensure that the most appropriate and up-to-date evidence has been used, and that reasonable assumptions have been made where evidence is limited or unavailable. Once the consultation is completed, the JCVI will develop and publish its final advice.”