Boys are being exposed to certain preventable cancers and sexually transmitted diseases because of the State’s continuing failure to include them in a vaccination programme available to girls since 2010.
Doctors attending the Irish Medical Organisation’s AGM in Kilkenny yesterday heard it was “just plain wrong” to exclude half the population from the HPV vaccination programme.
The vaccine helps to prevent cervical cancer in women and genital warts and potential HIV infection in men.
Retired consultant dermatologist Dr David O’Gorman said it was wrong not to offer boys a vaccine “that literally prevents genital warts which is an infection unpleasant for doctors to treat and no doubt much more unpleasant to have”.
He said Gardasil — the vaccine given to girls — protected not only against HPV, the human papillomavirus, but also helped prevent anal cancers in males.
In addition, there was growing evidence that it helped prevent head and neck cancers “because HPV can be transmitted by fellatio”, Dr O’Gorman said.
HPV accounts for approximately 20% of head, neck, and throat cancers in Ireland and the incidence is steadily increasing.
Those who contracted the HPV virus and who were subsequently exposed to the HIV virus were “virtually guaranteed” infection with HIV, he said.
Delegates at the Irish Medical Organisation annual conference in Kilkenny.
Dr O’Gorman, from Galway, said while some people “may not approve of the practices that cause exposure” to HPV the reality was “they are widespread”. He said herd immunity was not achieved by immunising half the population and there was “considerable risk to unvaccinated females if males have not been vaccinated” and vice versa.
“Surely we do not want our sons and grandsons to be single parents because they pass on HPV to their partner who then, as a result, develops fatal cervical cancer,” he said.
His motion — calling on the Minister for Health and the HSE to provide resources for a vaccination programme for teenage boys in respect of Gardasil so as to prevent infection and its consequences — was seconded by Dr Patrick O’Sullivan, director of public health in the North East. The motion was carried.
Dr O’Sullivan said genital warts was the most common STI reported “so if we can protect our young men as we are protecting our young women against HPV through vaccination it just makes so much sense and we should do it”.
He said the only reason it had not been done was a lack of resources.
HPV infection is the most common STI in Ireland and is rapidly acquired after sexual debut.
The HPV vaccine is available to boys and girls in the US and Australia.
A study published last year by researchers at Trinity College Dublin found a high rate of vaccine preventable cancer associated HPV infection in men who have sex with men.
Exposure to cancers, STIs due to exclusion from programme
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