Equal access to HPV vaccine from September

Equal access to HPV vaccine from September
Chief executive of the Children's Rights Alliance, Tanya Ward

Boys and girls will be given an equal opportunity to be protected from HPV-caused cancers from September next year.

Chief executive of the Children's Rights Alliance, Tanya Ward, said it is critical that planning for the roll-out of the vaccine to boys gets underway immediately.

The Children's Rights Alliance is part of the HPV Vaccination Alliance that comprises of 40 organisations including leading health, child welfare and social justice groups.

Health Minister, Simon Harris, announced yesterday that the life-saving vaccine will be extended to boys in the next school year.

The Health Information and Quality Authority has advised the minister to change to a more effective HPV vaccine and extend the vaccine to boys.

Hiqa's director of health technology assessment and deputy chief executive, Dr Máirín Ryan, said HPV-related disease is “common.”

There are about 540 cases of HPV-related cancers diagnosed in men and women every year, with one out of four in men.

Cancers caused by the human papillomavirus, the most common viral infection of the reproductive tract, occur in the cervix, anus, penis, neck and throat.

HPV infection is also responsible for genital warts in men and women, with 90% of these caused by the types of HPV the vaccine protects against.

HPV vaccination is a form of primary prevention to reduce HPV-related disease, including cervical cancer. Cervical screening is a form of secondary prevention.

Equal access to HPV vaccine from September

Dr Ryan said girls currently receive a vaccine that protects against four strains of HPV and those strains are associated with 70% of cervical cancer cases.

The newer vaccine recommended protects against five additional strains of the HPV.

Dr Ryan said there are no indications of serious side-effects associated with HPV vaccine.

Hiqa conducted a review of data from more than 70,000 trial participants and more than 20 million individuals in observational studies. It did not identify an increased rate of serious adverse events in those who received the vaccine compared to those given placebos.

Dr Ryan said the uptake of the HPV vaccine in 2014 and 2015 was 87% and two years later it had fallen to 51% and that was attributed to safety concerns following high-profile negative publicity. There was a partial recovery last year when the uptake of the vaccine increased to 65%.

Dr Ryan said it is important that there is “solid, evidence-based” information on the scientific data about the safety of the vaccine.

Hiqa's health technology assessment found that the cost of switching to the more effective vaccine for girls will be an additional €870,000 over five years.

The budget impact of providing the same vaccine to both boys and girls will be an additional €11.7m over five years.

The Royal College of Physicians in Ireland welcomed the extension of the HPV vaccine to boys.

President of the RCPI and consultant in infectious diseases, Prof Mary Horgan, said there is little awareness of the risk to men from HPV infections: "There is an approximate 20% increase in oropharyngeal (throat) cancers. Nearly 50% of this rise in oropharyngeal disease is directly related to HPV, with almost 80% of those occurring in men, yet there is little awareness of the risks to men."

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