Wales politics

HPV vaccine offered to gay men for cancer protection

Cervical cancer cells Image copyright Science Photo Library
Image caption The vaccine which protects against cervical cancer can be used more widely, experts say

A cancer vaccination is to be offered to gay men under the age of 45, Health Minister Mark Drakeford has said.

The jab for the human papilloma virus (HPV) - linked to cervical cancer - has been given to schoolgirls since 2008.

Expert advice has said vaccination can offer protection against other types of cancer commonly seen in gay men.

An advisory committee also recommended it for sex workers and people who are HIV positive, but is still considering its merits for adolescent boys.

'Little indirect protection'

Mr Drakeford said a targeted programme for sexually active gay men under 45 would be introduced following the recommendation of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which advises all UK governments.

"Men who have sex with men are a group who receive little indirect protection from the highly-successful HPV vaccination programme for adolescent girls," he said.

"I'm pleased to announce that I have approved the introduction of a new targeted HPV vaccination programme for men who have sex with men up to the age of 45.

"We will now give careful consideration about how this programme will be delivered and will make a further announcement in due course."

A JCVI recommendation on whether to offer the HPV vaccine to all adolescent boys is expected in early 2017.

'World leader'

Several organisations including Tenovus Cancer Care have called for the vaccine to be given to boys to protect them from head and neck cancer.

Dr Ian Lewis, director of research and policy at Tenovus, said: "Whilst this announcement is a step forward this change in policy does not go nearly far enough.

"We believe that this vaccination programme should be extended to cover adolescent boys at the same time as girls already receiving the vaccination in schools.

Welsh government has an opportunity to take this recommendation a step further and ensure that Wales is a world leader in preventing potentially epidemic cancers."

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