Welsh government introduces HPV vaccines for gay men
The Welsh government will roll out HPV vaccinations for men who have sex with men.
A vaccination programme began in 2008 among school-age girls in the UK to tackle the human papilloma virus, which spreads through genital or oral contact and can cause cancers.
Only girls were vaccinated on the grounds that men who only have sex with women would logically also be protected from transmission through ‘herd immunity’.
However, sexual health campaigners warned that as gay men have sex with eachother and not women, they were effectively left without any protection from HPV.
Earlier this month, the Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisation confirmed that the vaccine should be extended to under-45 men who have sex with men, to address the flaw.
Following the decision, today the Welsh government confirmed plans to roll out the vaccine.
Welsh Health and Social Services Minister Mark Drakeford made the announcement today.
He said: “Men who have sex with men are a group who receive little indirect protection from the highly-successful HPV vaccination programme for adolescent girls.
“I’m pleased to announce that I have approved the introduction of a new targeted HPV vaccination programme for men who have sex with men up to the age of 45.
“We will now give careful consideration about how this programme will be delivered and will make a further announcement in due course.”
A decision is expected in other parts of the UK in due course.
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Campaigners have called for an even wider rollout, vaccinating all school-age boys – with the JCVI set to report on those recommendations by 2017.
Terrence Higgins Trust exec Dr Shaun Griffin said: “This is an important step in the right direction but it is unfortunately not enough.
“We need a gender-neutral vaccination programme so that all boys are covered. This vaccine should continue to be administered in schools – as is the case currently for all girls – but children of both genders receive it in this setting, before they are sexually active, enhancing the vaccine’s effectiveness.
“There are clearly equalities issues here with the vaccine currently being available widely for girls but not boys, now that the case has been made for its use in MSM.
“The government must prioritise a gender-neutral vaccine as a matter of urgency and we will continue to campaign for its availability.
He added: “The government already spends £60 million per year on treating genital warts which if left untreated can cause head and neck, penile and anal cancers.
“It is estimated that it would cost just £22 million per year to make the HPV vaccine available to all school-aged boys.”
The JCVI has recommended “a targeted HPV vaccination programme for MSM aged up to 45 who attend GUM and HIV clinics should be undertaken.”
It adds that it should also be offered to at-risk groups including transgender women, sex workers, HIV-positive women, and HIV-positive men.