From September 2019, for the first time, boys in school Year 8 will be offered the highly effective HPV vaccine to protect them against cancers caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV).
Up until now, only girls have been offered the HPV vaccine. For over a decade, the vaccine has been offered to girls in Jersey, as in the UK, to protect against cervical cancer.
Recently, a major scientific review of 65 studies covering 60 million people showed a fall in HPV cases and in pre-cancerous cervical disease amongst women, adding to mounting evidence confirming the beneficial impact the vaccine is having against the disease.
In the UK, evidence clearly shows that males have been benefitting significantly from indirect protection (known as herd protection) that has built up from ten years of the girls’ vaccination programme. This is good news as HPV infection is associated with some cancers in males.
Following national calls for the vaccine to be made available to boys, the NHS is extending the HPV vaccine to all 12 and 13-year-olds. This means that Health and Community Services, for the first time, can make the vaccine freely available for Year 8 boys from September 2019.
Dr Linda Diggle, Head of Preventive Programmes, said: "The best time to protect pupils against HPV infection is in Year 8. Giving HPV vaccine at age 12/13 makes the biggest impact. At the beginning of September, school year 8 boys and girls will be bringing home an information letter, a leaflet, and a consent form for their parents to sign.
"In past years, uptake of the girls’ programme has tended to be around 88% to 90%. With unequivocal evidence showing the massive impact this safe and effective vaccine is having, we’re hoping even more year 8 pupils will get vaccinated against HPV infection."
Dr Diggle added: "Most women have never been able to benefit from this vaccine (as it only became available in 2008) and they have to rely on cervical screening, every three to five years, to detect cell changes caused by the HPV virus. Screening detects cell changes which enables treatment to be given that, for the most part, can prevent cervical cancer from developing.
"For the younger generation, the HPV vaccine is a game changer. We anticipate there will be a future recommendation in coming years telling us that those women who were vaccinated as girls need only have cervical screening a few times in their lifetime. This is because the vaccine protects against the high-risk HPV types that cause the majority of cervical cancers. And because the vaccine has prevented so much HPV infection amongst girls, they haven’t been able to pass the infection onto boys, meaning boys have been benefitting too.
"We strongly recommend parents of all year 8 pupils take up this vaccination opportunity once schools go back in September. Please don’t miss the opportunity to protect your Year 8 daughter or son against HPV infection. If a parent of a Year 8 pupil has questions, feel free to ring us and we can chat with you and answer any questions you have."
Information and the contact details of the department are available at gov.je