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Extend HPV vaccination to boys, nurses urge ministers

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The national HPV vaccination programme should be extended to cover boys as well as girls, according to eight out of 10 primary care and community nurses.

Currently, the HPV vaccination is offered to girls aged 12 and 13 to protect against cervical cancer. It is usually delivered in schools, although some PCTs have opted to implement it through general practices.

The jab is not routinely available to boys, who can carry the human papilloma virus, even though it also protects against cancer of the penis, oral cavity and anus.

A survey of 100 nurses by Independent Nurse's sister publication the British Journal of School Nursing, found 82 per cent disagreed with health minister Earl Howe's (pictured) statement that boys should not be inoculated because 'the aim of the programme has always been to prevent cervical cancer in women'.

One school nurse commented: 'Males can still spread the virus to non-vaccinated females which could lead to cervical cancer. A huge amount of NHS money is used to treat warts in males and females. This money should more than compensate for the cost of additional vaccines for boys.'

A practice nurse added: 'Surely if the aim is to prevent cervical cancer, then both parties need to be immunised?'

The DH said research was underway to support a future assessment of vaccinating men who have sex with men against HPV. However, there are currently no plans to extend HPV vaccination to males, 'based on an assessment of available scientific evidence'.

Meanwhile, the survey also revealed that more than 40 per cent of primary care and community nurses do not feel sufficiently informed about changes to the HPV vaccination programme which will be introduced this September.

One in four respondents said they were completely unaware of the switch in vaccine from Cervarix to Gardasil.

Gardasil offers protection against the two types of HPV virus that cause more than 70 per cent of cervical cancer in England. It also protects against viruses that cause 90 per cent of genital warts.

'Very little extra information has been sent out by PCTs to practice nurses,' summed up one nurse respondent.

What do you think? Leave a comment below or tweet your views to @IndyNurseMag

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