Government depends on “herd protection” against cancer causing HPV
Penny pinching on HPV ‘catch-up programme’ for boys will cost lives, as one in five girls miss out on jab.
Dentist leaders have lambasted the government for failing to back a catch-up programme to protect up to two million boys still in school from the human papillomavirus (HPV) – as new data shows nearly one in five school-aged girls have missed out on the vaccine.
In a letter to shadow public health minister Sharon Hodgson, public health minister Steve Brine MP has confirmed there will be no catch-up programme for boys, arguing boys will benefit from “herd protection.”
Girls in England are offered free HPV jabs at school during Years eight and nine, when they are aged between 12 and 14. The latest Public Health England (PHE) data shows just 83.8% of girls were given the recommended two doses of the vaccine by the end of Year nine in 2017-18 – less than what’s required for herd immunity – with nearly 50,000 (48,545) girls missing out.
The British Dental Association has been a leading advocate for expanding the programme to boys. HPV is a leading cause of oral cancers, which cause more deaths in the UK than car accidents.
Mick Armstrong (top) Chair of the British Dental Association said: “The latest data on vaccinations among girls illustrates precisely why we’ve needed a gender-neutral approach. It also shows why penny pinching on a catch-up programme will leave many school-aged boys unprotected.
“There can be no guarantees of ‘herd protection’ when nearly one in five girls are missing out on the vaccine. A catch-up programme remains the best way to protect all our children from this cancer-causing virus.”