Parents want the HPV vaccine for their sons – new research

April 12, 2018 by Sue Sherman, The Conversation
HPV causes a range of cancers, including cervical, penile, anal and throat cancer. Credit: Tatiana Shepeleva/Shutterstock.com

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted infection that causes diseases that affect both men and women. In the UK, girls are vaccinated against HPV but boys are not.

There are more than 100 types of HPV. Two of the low risk types (six and 11) cause more than 90% of genital warts. Other high risk types of HPV (especially 16 and 18) can cause cervical, vulval, vaginal, head, neck and throat, anal and penile cancers. While the incidence of cervical cancer in the UK has fallen since the 1990s, thanks to the NHS cervical screening programme, the incidence of those cancers that affect both men and women is on the rise.

More than 80% of sexually active people will be exposed to HPV in their lifetime. Genital HPV infection is spread during sexual intercourse and skin-to-skin contact of the genital areas. Wearing a condom reduces the risk of infection but does not provide complete protection. Once a person has been infected, their immune system will fight the virus and, in most cases, the virus will have no ill effects. But, for some people, the virus will progress to cause warts or cancer.

Since 2008, 12- and 13-year-old girls in most of the UK (11 to 13 in Scotland) have been offered the chance to be vaccinated against HPV via a school-based programme. In a phased rollout from April 2018, men aged 45 or younger who have sex with men will be offered the HPV vaccination in England at sexual health clinics and HIV clinics, bringing England in line with the rest of the UK. But boys are not likely to be offered the HPV vaccine any time soon.

Too little, too late

One rationale for not vaccinating boys is that if enough girls are vaccinated (currently, around 85% of girls have the necessary two doses in England), this provides "herd immunity" to men, meaning that if women don't have the virus, men will not be able to catch it either.

The main problem with the herd immunity argument, when it is girls rather than boys who are vaccinated, is that it doesn't provide protection for men who have sex with men, or for men who have sex with unvaccinated women – for example, women from countries without a vaccination programme, or who are too old to have been eligible for the vaccination.

Men who have sex with men are particularly vulnerable to HPV-related anal cancer. Although they can now opt to have the vaccination, it is too little, too late.

The HPV vaccination is most effective when it is given before exposure to the virus (before sexual activity starts), and also when it is given before puberty, when immune systems are able to provide a stronger antibody response.

Gender-neutral vaccination has wide support among the medical community with professional organisations such as the British Dental Association and The Faculty of Public Health favouring vaccination for both boys and girls.

Survey results

It is not just professionals who want to see the vaccination extended to boys. A recent Wellcome-funded survey of 186 parents of teenage boys in North Staffordshire that we conducted found that many of the parents were not aware of the health consequences of HPV for men. The research, published in PLOS ONE, revealed that once they were provided with this information, however, most parents wanted the to be available to their sons.

Several countries vaccinate both girls and boys against HPV, including the US, Canada, Austria, Australia and New Zealand. It is unacceptable, as society strives for equality in so many areas, that the UK should not extend the protection afforded by the HPV vaccination to boys as well as .

Explore further: Many doctors don't push HPV shots equally. See who's left out

Related Stories

Many doctors don't push HPV shots equally. See who's left out

March 26, 2018
(HealthDay)—Teen boys in the United States are less likely than girls to be vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV) because many doctors don't recommend the shots to boys' parents, researchers say.

Why we should vaccinate boys against HPV as well as girls

July 30, 2014
Gillian Prue, from the School of Nursing and Midwifery at Queen's University of Belfast, says that the human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is common in men and can lead to genital warts and the development of some head and ...

Men benefit from vaccinating girls against HPV but remain at risk of some cancers

May 12, 2015
Men benefit indirectly from vaccinating girls against human papillomavirus (HPV), but remain at risk of cancers associated with the virus, finds a study from The Netherlands published in The BMJ this week.

More U.S. teens getting vaccinated against HPV

August 24, 2017
(HealthDay)—Six out of 10 U.S. parents are choosing to get their children vaccinated against the cancer-causing human papillomavirus (HPV), which is spread by sexual contact, federal health officials reported Thursday.

HPV-vaccinated women protect men from infection

August 4, 2016
A Melbourne study has found the first evidence of 'herd protection' from vaccinations against the cervical cancer-causing human papillomavirus (HPV).

New study shows HPV vaccine is reducing rates of genital warts

March 29, 2017
The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine was introduced in Australia in 2007 and New Zealand in 2008 to prevent cervical cancer. It was free for women up to age 26 in Australia and to all women under 20 in New Zealand. This ...

Recommended for you

Accurate measurements of sodium intake confirm relationship with mortality

June 21, 2018
Eating foods high in salt is known to contribute to high blood pressure, but does that linear relationship extend to increased risk of cardiovascular disease and death? Recent cohort studies have contested that relationship, ...

Fans of yoga therapy have yet to win over doctors

June 21, 2018
Yoga practitioners often tout the unique health benefits of the ancient discipline—from relieving stress and pain to improving vascular health—but most doctors remain sceptical in the absence of hard proof.

Fruit and vegetables linked to changes in skin colour, new research finds

June 21, 2018
Skin colour in young Caucasian men is strongly linked to high levels of fruit and vegetable consumption, new research by Curtin University has found.

What a pain: The iPad neck plagues women more

June 20, 2018
Is your iPad being a literal pain in the neck?

Medicaid work requirements and health savings accounts may impact people's coverage

June 20, 2018
Current experimental approaches in Medicaid programs—including requirements to pay premiums, contribute to health savings accounts, or to work—may lead to unintended consequences for patient coverage and access, such ...

Introduction of alcohol found to adversely impact fertility rates in hunter-gatherer community

June 19, 2018
Fernando Ramirez Rozzi, a research director with the French National Centre for Scientific Research has found that the introduction of alcohol to a Baka pygmy hunter-gatherer society caused fertility rates to fall. In his ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

gloria23
not rated yet Jun 11, 2018
I have suffered for Human papillomavirus( HPV) for 2years, I was given some tablets at the hospital but I refused to take it, They said I have to be on it for life so I don't want take a drugs everyday for life. No point in taking medicine everyday when u won't get cure from it and I was advice to seek for natural herbal cure, after some time I found dr okhadigbo is the most trustful herbalist that have herbs to cure wicked symptom's,I emailed dr okhadigbo, for 2weeks been his patient he cured my (HPV) with his herbal. I only used his natural herbs for two weeks it was 100% cure. I'm not (HPV) patient anymore. I'm happy about it i finally got cured out of this mess been in my body for 2years. I also recommend you if you're living with (HPV) or herpes symptoms i also want you to be free contact dr okhadigbo with the email attach to my post dr.okhadigboherbalhome@gmail.com you call or whatsapp his number +2348159921615

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.