WebMD News Archive
HPV jabs for boys FAQs
Girls aged 12 to 13 have been offered HPV vaccination since September 2008.
The jabs are usually given at school and involve three injections over 12 months.
The current vaccine used, Gardasil, is effective against two strains of HPV which cause around 90% of genital warts as well as giving protection against two types of HPV which cause more than 70% of cervical cancers.
Why include boys?
The Throat Cancer Foundation says vaccinating girls and boys would reduce the impact of the most dangerous strains of HPV and prevent many cases of cervical, oropharyngeal, anal, penile and vulval cancers.
The charity says female only vaccination "is inadequate, discriminatory and detrimental."
Vaccination works by having enough people protected to stop a disease spreading, even if not everyone is protected. Experts call this 'herd immunity'.
The Throat Cancer Foundation says it is wrong to assume that vaccination for girls also protects boys.
What's the evidence?
A French study published this month in BioMed Central Cancer suggested that vaccination of both boys and girls against HPV, when compared with only vaccinating girls, could reduce HPV-related cancers in males by 65% and genital warts in males by 71%. However, researchers said the incremental benefits of adding boys to vaccination programmes are highly dependent on the vaccine coverage among girls
Comparing research studies can be difficult because of different methods, health systems, vaccination programmes and vaccines used. However, a study published in the British Journal of Cancer in 2007 suggested that extending HPV vaccination for boys in Brazil provided a 4% further reduction in cancers.
In any vaccination programme, uptake of immunisation is important for it to be effective. UK research in 2012 by University College London looked at the likely take up of HPV vaccine among boys. Only 10% said they would not have a jab, mostly because they didn't feel at risk or see the need for it. 41% would get vaccinated but 49% were unsure.
What's happening in other parts of the world?
Last year, Australia became the first country to extend its HPV vaccination programme to include 12 and 13-year-old boys. The Australian health department estimates that a quarter of new HPV infections will be avoided by extending the vaccine to boys.
The US health regulator CDC also recommends HPV vaccination for all boys aged 11 or 12 years, and older males who were not vaccinated when they were younger.
What's happening in the NHS?
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advises the government on vaccination. On its advice, the make of HPV vaccine was changed last year and it is now consulting on further changes.
In a statement, a Department of Health spokesperson says: "The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation keeps the eligibility criteria of all vaccination programmes under review, and research is underway to support a future assessment of vaccinating men who have sex with men against HPV. However, there are currently no plans to extend HPV vaccination to males, based on an assessment of available scientific evidence.
"Vaccination of boys was not recommended by the JCVI because once 80% coverage among girls has been achieved, there is little benefit in vaccinating boys to prevent cervical cancer in girls. 80% coverage for the full course of three doses of the vaccine was achieved in the first year of the HPV vaccination programme in 2008/09, and has since exceeded that level."