World Cancer Day call for HPV vaccine for boys

As part of World Cancer Day on February 4, Cancer Focus Northern Ireland is urging all local MPs to support an Early Day Motion at Westminster calling for adolescent boys to be given the HPV vaccination to help reduce incidence of cancer.

The charity is also calling on the Health Department at Stormont to introduce the measure.

The primary sponsor of the Early Day Motion is South Antrim MP Danny Kinahan and six other local MPs have already supported the call.

Human papilloma virus (HPV) is a very common sexually transmitted infection that can cause a range of cancers (cervical, vaginal, vulval, penile, anal, and oral) as well as genital warts.

Gerry McElwee, Head of Cancer Prevention at Cancer Focus NI, said: “There is already a vaccination programme for 12/13 year old girls. Extending the HPV vaccination to include adolescent boys is the optimal way to reduce preventable HPV related cancers.

“With every year that passes, 12,000 more boys in Northern Ireland are left unprotected against HPV-related diseases. That is unacceptable.”

The JCVI is considering whether to extend the national vaccination programme to all adolescent boys but Cancer Focus NI said its timescale was far too long.

The Joint Advisory Committee’s inquiry began in 2013 but it will not report until 2017 at the earliest. Even if it did then decide to vaccinate boys, implementation may not happen until 2020, which the charity said would leave another 60,000 boys in Northern Ireland unprotected.

Mr McElwee said momentum on the issue was growing. North Belfast MLA Paula Bradley has hosted a roundtable meeting on HPV at Stormont and the Assembly’s All Party Group on Cancer has discussed the issue.