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​Penny pinching on HPV 'catch-up programme' for boys will cost lives, as 1 in 5 girls miss out on jab

10 December 2018


Dentist leaders have lambasted the government for failing to back a catch-up programme to protect up to 2 million boys still in school from the human papillomavirus (HPV) – as new data shows nearly 1 in 5 school-aged girls have missed out on the vaccine.


In a letter to shadow public health minister Sharon Hodgson, public health minister Steve Brine MP has confirmed there will be no catch-up programme for boys, arguing boys will benefit from "herd protection."


Girls in England are offered free HPV jabs at school during Years 8 and 9, when they are aged between 12 and 14. The latest Public Health England data shows just 83.8% of girls were given the recommended two doses of the vaccine by the end of Year 9 in 2017-18 – less than what's required for herd immunity - with nearly 50,000 (48,545) girls missing out. 


The BDA has been a leading advocate for expanding the programme to boys. HPV is a leading cause of oral cancers, which cause more deaths in the UK than car accidents.


Mick Armstrong, Chair of the British Dental Association said:


"The latest data on vaccinations among girls illustrates precisely why we've needed a gender-neutral approach. It also shows why penny pinching on a catch-up programme will leave many school-aged boys unprotected.


"There can be no guarantees of 'herd protection' when nearly 1 in 5 girls are missing out on the vaccine. A catch-up programme remains the best way to protect all our children from this cancer-causing virus."


Dentists and oral cancer

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 - we campaign to raise awareness of the issues and provide resources for dental professionals to use.


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.


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