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Boys in Northern Ireland must be included in vaccines for oral cancer-causing HPV

Blog Author Roz McMullan

Blog Date 18/07/2018




​We're pleased to hear the news that the HPV vaccine has been recommended to be extended to boys in England, and Scottish and Welsh Governments have confirmed they will provide the funding, but we will now work to insist that Northern Ireland follows suit.


Working with Cancer Focus Northern Ireland, we are asking the Department of Health in Stormont to provide urgent clarity on whether the funding will be made available to ensure boys in Northern Ireland will also benefit from receiving the HPV vaccine.


Following the BDA's work lobbying, as part of the HPV Action coalition, Government advisers in England have now said they recommend extending vaccinations to adolescent boys in England, alongside girls (aged 12-13 years old) who have been vaccinated since 2008, subject to ministers negotiating an effective rate on bulk purchase of the vaccine.


HPV is the leading cause of oral cancer, especially among young people, and is one of the most rapidly rising cancers.


Oral cancer rates are set to double by 2035 and is increasing faster among men than women.

With every year that passes 12,000 more boys in Northern Ireland are left unprotected against HPV-related diseases.


We think that is unacceptable.


We've worked to put our case to the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), arguing that it would help combat the rising tide in oral cancer cases caused by HPV. The JCVI doesn't provide advice to Ministers in Northern Ireland or Scotland but health departments from either region may choose to accept the Committee's advice or recommendations.


Working with Gerry McElwee, Head of Cancer Prevention at Cancer Focus NI, we have been speaking to MLAs and former health ministers.


As dental professionals on the frontline, we are fully committed to seeing improved oral health for all of our population through prevention, not least when the impact is as devastating as oral cancer.


We must ensure that all our children, including boys in Northern Ireland, will benefit from a universal vaccination programme, as has been recommended for England, and along with Cancer Focus NI, we will continue to call on the Department of Health to provide that clarity as a matter of urgency.


Roz McMullan, Chair

BDA Northern Ireland Council


Oral cancer toolkit for dentists

Our free oral cancer toolkit is designed to help dental health professionals to identify and refer possible cases of oral cancer, and was developed with Cancer Research UK.


Dentists and their teams have a vital role to play in ensuring oral cancers are detected early and patients are informed about the risk factors. With oral cancers, the key is spotting early on: early detection results in a roughly 90 per cent survival rate, compared to a 50 per cent survival rate for delayed diagnosis.