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The HPV vaccine will now be given to boys - here's why that's excellent news


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In the 11 years since the HPV vaccination programme began, more than ten million girls have received the injection. Current figures suggest 80% of girls and young women  between 15 and 24 are now protected against developing cervical cancer. 



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As a secondary school teacher, I have had many conversations with my students about why they need to receive the HPV vaccine. I’ve always focused on the fact that it is girls that need protection as they are the ones that develop cervical cancers. 

As the government have now extended the national immunisation programme to include boys as well, the conversations that we have are going to have to change.

This decision to extend the programme to include all boys aged 12 and 13 was based on advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation(JCVI), the independent body that advises UK health departments on immunisation.

HPV is an extremely common virus, that can affect anyone and doesn’t discriminate. Some 80% of women will be infected by the HPV virus at some point in their lives. Most people will be able to naturally clear it without treatment, but for some the virus will lead to abnormal tissue growth, which in turn can become cancerous.

two girls doing school work

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Cervical cancer, anal cancer, genital cancers, and cancers of the head and neck can all be transmitted by the HPV virus.

The HPV vaccines stimulate the body to produce antibodies that, in future encounters with HPV, bind to the virus and prevent it from infecting cells , which in turn prevents cancers from developing.

HPV is transmitted by any kind of sexual activity, including touching. This why the vaccine is being offered to younger teenagers, to protect them before they are sexually active and could come into contact with the virus.

Because the virus is sexually transmitted, vaccinating boys will help protect their future partners. Reducing the circulation of the virus will also help prevent penile, anal and genital cancers and some cancers of the head and neck from developing in men in later life.

In England, girls and boys aged 12 to 13 years will be routinely offered the first HPV vaccination when they're in school Year 8.

The second dose is normally offered 6 to 12 months after the first (in school Year 8 or Year 9).  Receivers of the vaccine must have both doses to be protected.

There can be a stigma associated with any kind of sexually transmitted infection which can lead to embarrassment or an unwillingness to discuss why all our teens need to receive this vaccination. Hopefully with the recognition that everyone needs this vaccination we can begin to break this stigma.

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