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Dublin: 14 °C Thursday 23 May, 2019
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Study to begin on rolling out free HPV vaccine scheme to boys

The HPV virus can lead to cervical, penile and throat cancer in some cases.

THE GOVERNMENT’S HEALTH watchdog will begin an assessment to roll out the HPV vaccine to boys of school-going age.

The Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) has agreed to undertake a health technology assessment (HTA) on extending the national immunisation schedule to boys, following a request from the Department of Health.

“Happy this work is underway and looking forward to receiving this HTA from @HIQA,” tweeted health minister Simon Harris. “A really important body of work.”

HPV (human papillomavirus) is very common virus or infection, and is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) worldwide.

Most HPV infections have no noticeable symptoms and over 90% are cleared by the body’s immune system. However, in some cases the virus can cause cervical, penile, throat or anal cancer in both men and women.

The government scheme has been available to school girls since 2010 (the HSE announced that the vaccine would be available to gay men from this year).

When it was then introduced by Minister for Health Mary Harney, the plan was originally to roll the free vaccine out to boys as well – but this hasn’t happened yet.

Recently, the uptake rates of girls have dropped dramatically to around 50%, which compares to 95% target rate of uptake by the World Health Organisation.

Hiqa’s research aims to establish the clinical and cost-effectiveness of providing HPV vaccination to boys.

Hiqa’s Director of Health Technology Assessment and Deputy Chief Executive Dr Máirín Ryan said:

“This HTA will investigate the clinical and cost-effectiveness of expanding the HPV vaccination programme to include boys, thereby extending them the opportunity to benefit from the vaccine and increasing HPV immunity in the wider population.

Hiqa’s assessment will also consider the wider implications of any proposed change to the vaccination programme, such as the budget impact, use of resources, and the ethical and societal implications.

The final results of the HTA are expected next year and will be submitted to the Minister for Health for consideration.

Over 200,000 girls in Ireland have safely received the HPV vaccine, along with 100 million people worldwide in countries like the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Read: As HPV-linked cancers increase, should boys get the HPV vaccine?

Read: The number of young girls receiving the HPV vaccine is slowly rising but doctors are still worried

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