The British Dental Association has welcomed reports that the Government is preparing to commit to funding HPV vaccinations for boys.
The BDA has been a leading voice in the call for a gender neutral approach to the vaccinations, which are currently provided to school age girls as protection from cervical cancer. HPV has emerged as the leading cause of oral cancer, especially among young people, and rates are rising steeply overall. It is linked to 5% of all cancers worldwide, including some that affect only men.
Over the last decade, oral cancer incidence rates have increased by almost a quarter (23%) in the UK, making it one of the fastest rising types of cancer in the country, and it is increasing more rapidly among men than among women.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) had delayed offering concrete recommendations to ministers on a universal programme. They have received widespread criticism for questioning the cost effectiveness of vaccinating boys, based on unpublished, flawed and out of date modelling.
The BDA and members of the HPV Action coalition are urgently seeking clarification on when the jabs will be offered. Peter Baker, Campaign Director of HPV Action, said 'The JCVI has been considering whether boys should receive the HPV vaccination for five long years and, despite repeated promises of a decision, has not yet made one. It has also refused to look at the equality or ethical issues or take account in its modelling of the full economic cost of the diseases caused by HPV. However, we very much hope that recent press reports are accurate and that the government is on the verge of making the right decision. If the current girls-only vaccination programme continues, around 400,000 more boys each year will be left unprotected and at risk of oral, anal and penile cancers as well as genital warts.'