In the UK, a scheme that was recommended by the JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) last November is to be implemented this June. English MP Mike Freer, Chair of APPG on HIV and AIDS, who had been campaigning for the scheme for the last two years, is delighted with the news. He praised the efforts of UK Health Minister Jane Ellison, calling her a ‘public health champion’. The organisation, HPVAction, has also been campaigning for the initiative for some time.
The pilot scheme will offer 40,000 gay/MSM men in England the chance to avail of an anti-cancer vaccine, which has been available to schoolgirls to protect against cervical cancer since 2008. The organisation, HPVAction, has also been calling for the scheme to be gender-neutral and include men and boys. HPVAction stated:
“We consider that it is unethical to exclude males from a vaccination programme that could significantly reduce their burden of cancer and protect their sexual health”.
The vaccine immunises against human papillomavirus (HPV), active in increasing the risk of oral, penile and anal cancers, and many feel it should be offered all young males as well.
English MP Mike Freer, MP for Finchley & Golders Green, and Chair of the APPG on HIV & AIDS, has been campaigning for the extension of HPV vaccination since he first raised the issue in a House of Commons debate over two years ago.
In response to the announcement of extending the HPV vaccination to MSM he said:
‘I welcome the Minister’s announcement today, which marks a significant step in the Department of Health’s recognition that the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) can impact men just as much as it can women. I applaud the efforts Ms Ellison has made which have led us to this point. Without a public health champion like her in the Department, we wouldn’t be where we are today.
‘Until now, the HPV vaccination programme has discriminated against men who have sex with men (MSM). This announcement changes that and addresses the limitations of having a vaccination programme focused solely on reducing cervical and vaginal cancer rates in women.
‘The health risks faced by MSM are statistically greater than in men generally. Therefore I am pleased, further to the recommendations made by the JCVI last year, the DoH are now taking the action needed to reduce STIs in MSM, by extending the HPV vaccination programme.’
The Member for Finchley & Golders Green has been lobbying the Government on the issue of HPV for many years. He has tabled written questions, oral questions and countless debates to force this issue onto the agenda at the DH. Mr Freer said:
‘By announcing the expansion of the HPV vaccination programme the DoH has committed to putting in place a robust HPV prevention policy that can save both lives and money.’
The organisation HPVAction also says that only vaccinating young girls is discriminatory, and exacerbates inequality:
“Exclusion also exacerbates inequalities in cancer outcomes between men and women and between different groups of men (e.g. men who have sex with men and men who don’t and men who have received HPV vaccinations paid for privately and those who have not).
For optimal effectiveness, males should be vaccinated at the same age as females, i.e. at age 12/13, before the onset of sexual activity. Vaccinating at a later age, and not via schools, will achieve lower coverage and provide less protection for individuals already exposed to HPV infection“.
Australia has also started to implement its scheme for male vaccination against HPV.