Teenage boys to get life­sav­ing HPV jab in the next school year

Irish Independent - - News - Eil­ish O’Re­gan HEALTH COR­RE­SPON­DENT

THOU­SANDS of teenage boys are to be of­fered a life­sav­ing vac­cine – cur­rently ad­min­is­tered only to girls – to pro­tect them against deadly can­cers.

They will be vac­ci­nated against the cancer-caus­ing HPV virus in the next school year.

Health Minister Si­mon Harris reaf­firmed the prom­ise to roll out the vac­cine for boys af­ter the pro­posed ex­ten­sion was as­sessed as both clin­i­cally and cost ef­fec­tive by the Health In­for­ma­tion and Qual­ity Au­thor­ity (Hiqa).

Hiqa said the vac­cine is safe and rec­om­mended that both girls and boys get the 9-va­lent vac­cine.

The newer ver­sion pro­tects against five types of HPV.

“Fund­ing has al­ready been made avail­able in the Bud­get to fa­cil­i­tate the in­tro­duc­tion of this ini­tia­tive in 2019, sub­ject to a favourable rec­om­men­da­tion be­ing made in the Hiqa as­sess­ment re­port,” Mr Harris said.

Al­though HPV is widely known to be as­so­ci­ated with cer­vi­cal cancer in women, it also leaves boys at risk of dis­ease in later life.

The vac­cine should re­duce the risk of throat cancer and also gen­i­tal warts in men.

Dr Máirín Ryan, Hiqa’s di­rec­tor of health tech­nol­ogy as­sess­ment, said: “Ex­tend­ing the HPV vac­cine to boys pro­vides di­rect pro­tec­tion against HPV-re­lated dis­ease to boys, in­di­rect pro­tec­tion to girls who have not been vac­ci­nated and would re­duce HPVre­lated dis­ease and mor­tal­ity in Ire­land.

“Over 20 years a gen­derneu­tral 9-va­lent pro­gramme will pre­vent an es­ti­mated 101 ad­di­tional cases of cer­vi­cal cancer com­pared with the cur­rent girls-only 4-va­lent pro­gramme.”

The Hiqa re­port said ev­ery year 538 can­cers as­so­ci­ated with HPV are di­ag­nosed in Ire­land, in­clud­ing in the cervix, anus, pe­nis, neck and throat. HPV in­fec­tion is also re­spon­si­ble for 90pc of gen­i­tal warts.

One in four of the HPVre­lated can­cers is di­ag­nosed in men.

It found the cost of switch­ing to the 9-va­lent vac­cine for girls will be an ad­di­tional €870,000 over five years.

It also showed that the bud­get im­pact of pro­vid­ing the 9-va­lent vac­cine to boys and girls will be an ad­di­tional €11.7m over five years.

There was a fall-off in the take-up of the vac­cine by teenage girls in re­cent years af­ter it was wrongly linked to com­pli­ca­tions and se­ri­ous side ef­fects.

How­ever, it has since par­tially re­cov­ered and the up­take in this aca­demic year is ex­pected to be higher fol­low­ing the Cer­vi­calCheck scan­dal and the har­row­ing tes­ti­monies of women who de­vel­oped cer­vi­cal cancer.

Prof Mary Hor­gan, a con­sul­tant in in­fec­tious dis­eases, said it is es­sen­tial that boys are also pro­tected from can­cers, such as those of the head and neck that are of­ten caused by HPV in­fec­tion.

“There is an ap­prox­i­mate 20pc in­crease in throat can­cers,” said Prof Hor­gan, who is pres­i­dent of the Royal Col­lege of Physi­cians.

“Nearly 50pc of this rise in oropha­ryn­geal dis­ease is di­rectly re­lated to HPV, with al­most 80pc of those oc­cur­ring in men, yet there is lit­tle aware­ness of the risks to men.

“Re­cent re­search to gauge aware­ness of HPV-re­lated in­fec­tions and can­cers in men found that about 60pc of Ir­ish adults are aware that it can af­fect both men and women. And wor­ry­ingly 87pc be­lieve they have never been ex­posed to the virus.

“While progress has been made in in­creas­ing HPV vac­cine up­take rates in girls in Ire­land, which will con­fer some in­di­rect pro­tec­tion to boys, we will not get to a point of elim­i­na­tion of this po­ten­tially se­ri­ous in­fec­tion with­out a roll­out of vac­ci­na­tion and pro­vi­sion of di­rect pro­tec­tion to boys also.”

Par­ents can learn more about the HPV risks for boys by ask­ing their GPs and re­fer­ring to re­li­able web­sites, such as the WHO.

Pro­tec­tion: Dr Máirín Ryan said the vac­cine will pre­vent dis­ease

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