19 MAY 2018

In an open letter to Steve Brine MP, the Oral Health Foundation calls for an extension to the HPV vaccination in the United Kingdom to include boys.

The charity has contacted the Secretary of State for Public Health and Primary Care regarding the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation’s (JCVI) forthcoming guidance on whether the UK should have a gender-neutral HPV vaccination programme.

In the letter, the Oral Health Foundation expresses its extreme concern and disappointed that the JCVI has continued to postpone making a final decision on this issue.

“The committee has delayed an extension of the HPV vaccination programme for over five years, and since then, a further two million British boys have gone unvaccinated, leaving them at risk of HPV-related diseases and cancers,” the letter reads.

The charity says it is deeply troubled by the JCVI’s statement on the issue, published in July 2017, particularly in reference to conclusions influenced by severe flaws in the process and methodology of evidence gathering.

The letter says: “A brief review of the modelling used shows several problems which have either been overlooked or discarded. Miscalculations in the number of cancer cases caused by HPV, omissions in sexual contact between UK men and unvaccinated women (either from the UK or abroad), and evidential uncertainties in the area of changing sexual behaviours, are just a few of the corns we have around data gathering.”

The Oral Health Foundation also used the letter as an opportunity to emphasise issues around inequality a non-gender-neutral vaccination would bring, along with strong support for a HPV jab for boys: “We are of the opinion that a decision not to vaccinate boys could amount to direct sex discrimination and therefore be in breach of equality law. We therefore strongly believe that JCVI should take full and proper account of equality issues before making its final decision and publish evidence that it has done so.

“The depth of support for a gender-neutral vaccination, both internationally and within the UK, should also be recognised, and it has been heavily backed by clinicians working in HPV fields, as well as the public.”

More than 7,500 people in the UK are diagnosed with mouth cancer every year and many of these are caused by HPV.  As a charity campaigning against mouth cancer, we see first-hand the increase of HPV-related mouth cancers and the devastating effect it can have on a person’s life.

“Every year that goes by without a gender-neutral HPV vaccine, a further 400,000 boys pass through the system and are left unprotected. Without a vaccination programme for boys, men will continue to die from entirely preventable HPV related diseases,” the letter adds.

“This situation cannot continue.”

The Oral Health Foundation ends the letter with an open invitation to meet and discuss this matter in person.