In September 2008 a national program was launched to vaccinate all girls between the ages of 12-13 against human papillomavirus (HPV). The vaccine helps protect against certain strains of HPV which can cause cancer. By 2009/10 it was reported that 87% of girls in their second year of high school (S2), in Scotland, were administered the HPV vaccine1.
A recent question has arisen surrounding the vaccine – whether or not boys should be encouraged to be vaccinated. Although men are obviously not at risk of cervical cancer, recent research suggests there may be a link between infection with HPV and several other diseases. These include oropharyngeal (oral and throat) cancer and genital warts. There is also a possible increased risk of anal and penile cancers.
The position of NHS Scotland is currently that the priority is to “directly protect girls against cervical cancer. By protecting all girls against the two most common causes of cervical cancer, eventually the level of protection will be raised because there will be fewer viruses circulating”2. The hope is this will create a “herd immunity” where a sufficient proportion of the population are immune, thereby reducing the risk of a susceptible individual coming into contact with the virus.
For more information on the vaccination href=”http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/HPV-vaccination/Pages/Introduction.aspx”>please see the NHS website.
This article was originally published in the SCPN Newsletter Volume 3, Issue 3.
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