Cervical cancer vaccine for boys

The Dominion Post 03 February 2009

The cervical cancer vaccine should be given to boys as well as girls, to protect them and their future partners from genital warts and cancer, public health experts say. The main introduction of the $177 million vaccination programme, which aims to immunise 300,000 Kiwi schoolgirls over five years, begins this week. The vaccine, Gardasil, has been available free to 17 and 18-year-olds since September. About 20,000 teenage girls have already had the three doses necessary to protect them against four strains of human papilloma virus (HPV), the main cause of genital warts and cervical cancer. The vaccine’s maker, Merck Sharp & Dohme, says it plans to apply to have Gardasil licensed for boys and men up to the age of 26 after new research showing it prevents 90 per cent of genital warts and pre-cancerous lesions in males.

Immunisation Advisory Centre director Nikki Turner said extending the vaccine to boys would be more expensive but could have major health benefits. “It could benefit the individual by protecting them against genital warts and cancers. HPV is implicated in 40 per cent of penile cancer. From a population perspective, vaccinating boys could also reduce the carriage of HPV in the community, though we don’t yet have the evidence for that.”