The JCVI has today refused to extend the HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) vaccine to all boys.
The decision, which has been under consideration since 2013, has been roundly criticised by many corners of the dental profession due to the protection it could have against HPV-related cancers.
The current HPV vaccine programme will now continue, where it’s predicted 400,000 boys are unvaccinated every year, that’s despite 97% of dentists backing a programme to allow all school-aged children access to the HPV vaccine.
‘This decision has been an incredibly long time coming and the outcome is one which is a completely unjust, unfair and discriminatory decision will cost lives,’ Dr Nigel Carter, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation, said.
‘HPV is one of the leading causes of mouth cancer; without the vaccination programme we will continue to see cases rise when they could be completely prevented, it is a very, very sad decision that we will veraciously campaign to reverse.
‘This decision is dangerously discriminatory and unfair and one that will leave millions of boys and men unprotected from the biggest sexually transmitted infection in the world.’
In the JCVI report, the committee admitted that extending the programme would provide protection further protection to those males, but the programme was not cost effective.
The conclusion from the JCVI report states: ‘While it is clear that a programme to vaccinate adolescent males would provide those vaccinated with direct protection against HPV infection, and associated disease, all the evidence suggests that the risk of infection in males has already been dramatically reduced by the girls programme and that these herd effects will continue to have a substantial impact.
‘Therefore, most of the benefit in boys can be achieved through achieving high uptake in a girl’s only vaccination programme.
‘The additional benefits gained from extending the programme to adolescent boys therefore, would be small, relative to the impact of the girls programme.
‘The findings of both cost-effectiveness analyses provided specifically to the committee predict that extending the HPV programme to adolescent boys would not be a cost-effective use of health service resources in the UK setting.’
HPV has been linked to 5% of all cancers in the UK and campaigners have been calling for a gender neutral approach to the vaccine.
It is predicted that around 2,000 men every year are diagnosed with a HPV-related cancer, with half of those dying from the condition within the next five years.
‘HPV has emerged as the leading cause of oropharyngeal cancers, so JCVI’s unwillingness to expand the vaccination programme to boys is frankly indefensible,’ BDA chair, Mick Armstrong, said.
‘The state has a responsibility to offer all our children the best possible defence.
‘Dentists are on the front line in the battle against oral cancer, a condition with heart-breaking and life-changing results.
‘Ministers can chose to sit this one out, or show they really believe in prevention.’
Despite the result, many in the dental profession have promised to continue the fight to provide gender-neutral HPV vaccinations.
Cancer Research statistics show that the number of people in Britain diagnosed with mouth cancer has jumped by a third, with much of the increase being attributed to HPV infections.
‘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,’ Peter Baker, HPV Action Campaign director, said.
‘The decision not to vaccinate boys is about saving money not public health.
‘HPV Action will continue to make the case for a national vaccination programme that protects men and women equally.
‘There may also be grounds for a legal challenge on the grounds that the decision breaches equality law.’