GPs Urge Government to Reconsider HIV Vaccination Stance

There has been strong criticism of the government by GPs concerned about the policy of failing to extend HPV vaccination to boys.

The Joint Committee for Vaccinations and Immunisations (JCVI) has announced that research commissioned by the organisation found that extending the HPV vaccination to males is “highly unlikely to be cost-effective”.

But HPV Action, a campaign group composed of 47 patient and professional organisations, believes that escalation of the vaccination should be considered essential.

It has also been suggested that the decision is contrary to existing equality law, and companies are considering legal action in order to challenge the policy.

Research indicates that the doctors almost unanimously support extending the vaccine to boys, and there has been a strong response to the verdict of the JCVI.

GP groups have warned that the decision potentially means boys, and particularly men who have sex with men, are open to aggressive cancers caused by the virus.

HPV Action has already announced that legal proceedings are being considered on the basis that the decision is contrary to existing equality law.

Dr George Kassianos, the RCGP’s national immunisation lead, stated that the Royal College is strongly opposed to the policy.

“We are disappointed at today’s announcement as the RCGP has always supported equality in gender with respect to HPV disease prevention in order to protect all our patients. HPV infection is associated with aggressive cancers and other conditions in all patients, regardless of gender. We would, therefore, urge the DH to extend HPV immunisation to boys as a matter of urgency.”

Dr Andrew Green, the GPC’s clinical and prescribing policy lead, noted that the decision could have a particularly detrimental impact on practising homosexual men.

“I am very disappointed that the opportunity to protect boys had not been taken. There is a significant population of men who have sex with men, and the burden of HPV related disease affects them every bit as much as women. The only way to offer them effective protection is a universal vaccination programme for boys.”

And Peter Baker, HPV Action campaign director, also spoke very strongly on the decision.

“It is astonishing that the government’s vaccination advisory committee has ignored advice from patient organisations, doctors treating men with HPV-related cancers, public health experts and those whose lives have been devastated by HPV.”

Baker suggested that it was fiscally motivated rather than emanating from a commitment to protecting public health.

“The decision not to vaccinate boys is about saving money not public health. HPV Action will continue to make the case for a national vaccination programme that protects men and women equally. There may also be grounds for a legal challenge on the grounds that the decision breaches equality law.”

 

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