HPV Action (HPVA) is a collaborative partnership of 44 patient and professional organisations working to reduce the health burden of HPV in the UK. To achieve this, HPVA runs an advocacy campaign that aims to achieve gender-equal HPV vaccination. Currently only girls are offered the cancer-preventing HPV vaccine in the UK. The campaign goal is that all boys and girls will be routinely offered vaccination against HPV at the age of 12/13.
HPV Action estimates that, in the UK, HPV causes about 5,000 new cancer cases a year in women and 2,100 in men. It also causes about 39,250 new cases of genital warts in women and 47,550 in men. About 1,200 people (600 men and 600 women) are affected by recurrent respiratory papillomatosis at any one time. HPV causes cervical, anal, penile, vaginal, vulvar and head and neck cancers. The incidence of HPV-related anal and head and neck cancers has increased significantly over the past 40 years. There is a screening programme for only one (cervical) of the cancers caused by HPV.
HPV Action estimates that the additional cost of extending the HPV vaccination programme to boys in the UK would be in the region of £20–22 million a year, a relatively small sum when set against the total costs of treating HPV-related diseases. One study of the cost of treating nine major HPV-related diseases in Italy produced an estimate of about £430 million a year. The cost of treating genital warts in England is estimated to be £52 million a year. The Australian government, which also has a comprehensive national health service, has calculated that it is cost effective to vaccinate boys as well as girls, and its program is offered to all children.
Currently in the UK, only girls aged 12-13 in year 8 at school are routinely vaccinated against HPV. HPVA believes that boys should also be included in the UK vaccination programme for several reasons. This would ensure the maximum possible protection of women against cervical cancer and protect both men and women from other HPV-related cancers. Gender-neutral vaccination will also protect both men and women from genital warts and recurrent respiratory papillomatosis.
Providing a gender-neutral vaccination programme for HPV in the UK would improve public health, tackle health inequalities, prove cost effective and, above all, reduce the suffering caused by diseases that are easily preventable.
HPVA’s work includes:
- Lobbying MPs and ministers, government and NHS officials
- Generating media coverage
- Building medical and scientific support
- Engaging patient, professional and other organisations
Six parliamentarians with a special interest in different areas of public health back the campaign.
- John Baron MP, chair, All Party Parliamentary Group on Cancer
- Sir Paul Beresford, chair, All Party Parliamentary Group on Dentistry
- Baroness Joyce Gould, chair, All Party Parliamentary Group on Sexual and Reproductive Health in the UK
- Lord Patel of Bradford, chair, All Party Parliamentary Group on Men’s Health
- Pamela Nash MP, chair, All Party Parliamentary Group on HIV and AIDS
- Mike Freer MP
The HPV and Anal Cancer Foundation has used advocacy successfully in the US to extend the HPV vaccination to males. In 2011, the Foundation led a coalition in petitioning the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices in order to elevate the status of male HPV vaccination from permissive to routine. In October 2011, the ACIP voted in favour of routine HPV vaccinations for males. Since then, male vaccination rates in the US have risen from 1% to 21%. We hope to repeat this success in the UK, Europe, and beyond, until HPV has been eradicated globally.
How can I take action?
- Sign the change.org petition to introduce HPV vaccination for boys to stop many preventable cancers.
- Write to your local Member of Parliament (MP) and ask for them to support the campaign for gender-neutral vaccination. Contact details for your MP can be found by entering your postcode into the TheyWorkForYou website.
- If you are a patient, professional or similar organisation, join HPV Action. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further details.
- Speak to your GP about vaccinating both your male and female children against HPV.