HPV vaccine for boys questioned

ONE of the Hunter’s leading public health physicians has cautioned against extending to boys a national human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination presently administered to schoolgirls.

HPV refers to a group of viruses that cause skin warts, genital warts and some cancers.

Through a federal government-financed program, females aged 12 to 13years can receive the vaccine to protect against the cause of most cervical cancers.

In NSW, year 7 students are vaccinated in high school.

Now an extension to school boys is up for discussion.

Writing in today’s Medical Journal of Australia, University of Newcastle School of Medicine and Public Health Professor David Durrheim and University of New England School of Health adjunct senior lecturer Peter Massey said it was not a sensible use of public health resources.

Professor Durrheim is also a Hunter New England public health physician.

Their letter said that, based on analysis of US programs, an extended Australian program would not be cost-effective.

Modelling also showed limited community immunity gains.

It would be preferable to consider selective vaccination of higher-risk groups, especially men who had sex with men, to reduce incidence of oropharyngeal cancer, a type of oral cancer, and anal cancer.

In resource-constrained settings, the first priority in reducing HPV-related cancer mortality was to vaccinate preadolescent girls, the letter said.

The authors said Australia had one of the lowest cervical cancer rates in the world and high rates of cervical cancer screening.

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