Date: 
July 24, 2018

A matter of justice – Irish Cancer Society calls on Government to offer men the same protections against cancer-causing HPV as women

Ensuring justice and non-discrimination must be at the centre of any decision to offer the HPV vaccine to boys, the Irish Cancer Society has said, as it welcomed the publication of a draft report into the matter today.

The Health Information and Quality Authority’s (HIQA) preliminary assessment on gender-neutral HPV vaccination has today been released for public consultation. The report states the important “ethical reasons to justify extension of our selective programme to gender-neutral vaccination on the basis of justice, non-discrimination and non-stigmatisation”.

Commenting on the findings, Irish Cancer Society CEO Averil Power said:

“When it comes to the health of our children, it is only right that we offer the same protections to both boys and girls. Each year in Ireland at least 420* men and women are diagnosed with a cancer caused by HPV. The HPV vaccine is approved for use in boys and girls, but currently only girls are offered it for free under the national vaccination programme. Only boys whose families can afford to and choose to pay as much as €300 for the vaccine currently receive it through their GP, leaving many more unprotected. This is clearly an injustice.”

Over 270 million doses of the HPV vaccine have been given globally and it has been shown to be safe and effective in both males and females. Some 20 countries have now introduced the vaccination for boys, including Australia where the uptake rate is up to 90%. Last week the body overseeing vaccination policy in the UK strongly recommended that the free schools vaccination programme be extended to boys. In Ireland, the National Immunisation Advisory Committee has also recommended that boys receive this vaccine.

Ms Power added: “The advent of the HPV vaccine means that one day we may be able to eliminate the cause of one in 40 cancer cases in Ireland, but this will only be possible if boys and girls are vaccinated. According to HIQA’s draft report, extending the free vaccine to boys would cost an additional €10.4 million over five years. The Irish Cancer Society believes that such a cost would be an extremely good use of public funds and would ultimately benefit Irish men and women for generations to come.”

With HIQA now having commenced a public consultation on offering the HPV vaccine to boys, the Irish Cancer Society encourages anyone passionate about the need for a fair and just health system to make their voices heard by taking part in this debate through hiqa.ie.

For more information see cancer.ie/hpv