Why dentists are fighting for HPV vaccines for boys
Recently, a group of high-profile dental organisations called for the government to consider rolling out the HPV vaccination programme to include teenage boys, as well as girls. The vaccine, which is currently provided for girls as they enter their teenage years to protect against cervical cancer, is the subject of debate after a committee turned down the option to expand the reach of the programme on the grounds that it wasn’t cost-effective to vaccinate boys.
The British Dental Association has joined forces with the Faculty of General Dental Practice and the Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons to urge the Department of Health and Social Care to reconsider plans to introduce vaccinations for boys. HPV is known to increase the risk of more than 20 forms of cancer, including oral cancer, a type of cancer that has become much more prevalent in the UK in the last decade.
Dr Mick Armstrong, chair of the BDA, said that cancers that affect the mouth and throat have a devastating impact on quality of life, and added that dentists are frustrated by the fact that many cases of mouth cancer could be prevented. Dentists are often first to spot potential warning signs, and the BDA believes that introducing HPV vaccines for boys could see the number of cases fall in years to come. In the UK, the number of people diagnosed with oral cancer has increased by around a third in the last ten years. Dr Armstrong suggested that it was both unfair and illogical to protect half of the population and leave the other half exposed.
In light of the growing prevalence of mouth cancer, the organisations have urged the government to think about rolling out the vaccination programme to include boys and prioritise saving lives over saving money.