The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) has expressed its disappointment and frustration that the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has today (19 July 2017) announced its decision not to extend human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccinations to all adolescent boys. This interim decision precedes a six week consultation period, after which time the decision will be made final unless the JCVI can be persuaded to change its mind.
HPV is responsible for 5% of all cancers, and while the existing vaccination scheme for adolescent girls provides a level of ‘herd protection’ to boys, the decision not to extend the vaccination means some 400,000 boys remain at risk of contracting the virus. A decision to extend the programme today would have brought the UK in-line with 11 other countries who currently offer universal HPV vaccinations.
Shirley Cramer CBE, Chief Executive RSPH, said: “We are deeply disappointed by the JCVI’s decision today, which suggests that fundamental priorities are focused more on saving money than on saving lives. Such a simple vaccination programme has the potential to make such a big impact on the public’s health on a national scale. We hope that the Government’s advisory committee reconsider this decision as soon as possible and put the public’s health and wellbeing before cost-saving. This process has already dragged on for a considerable period, and every moment we delay lives continue to be unnecessarily put at risk.”
Peter Baker, HPV Action Campaign Director, said: “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. 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.”