Monday 2nd September 2019

More than a million teenage boys in the UK will miss out on potentially life-saving vaccinations, Teenage Cancer Trust warns today, leaving them at risk of HPV-related cancers in adulthood that could be prevented.

We're calling for the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination programme to be extended to all 13 to 24 year old teenage boys and young men who want it, making it fairer for a ‘missing generation’ who under current rules can’t get vaccinated for free on the NHS.

The HPV vaccine is being given to 11 to 13-year-old boys across the UK for the first time in this school year (2019-20) alongside girls the same age. More than a million teenage boys in the school years above them cannot get the vaccine free on the NHS and would have to pay for it.

When the HPV vaccination programme for girls was rolled out by the NHS, girls in older school years could have it free via a ‘catch up’ programme, but that option isn’t being extended to a generation of boys. We say it is vital to redress this inbuilt inequality by offering 13 to 24-year-old boys the chance to have the vaccine for free on the NHS if they want it.

Our new research shows that:
  • Three in four (76 per cent) teenage boys and young men age 13 to 24 would want to be vaccinated against HPV if it was offered to them for free – as it is for teenage girls and young women.
  • However, if they had to pay, nearly half (46 per cent) of teenage boys and young men say they would remain unvaccinated.
  • Only one in three (34 per cent) teenagers and young adults would be willing to pay for the HPV vaccine.

Policymakers say it is not necessary for every boy to get vaccinated as they have a reduced risk of getting HPV in the UK as they are protected by the immunity some women and girls have gained (known as ‘herd protection’) from the NHS vaccination programme. After taking this into account, seven in 10 (73 per cent) of teenagers and young adults still want to be vaccinated themselves.

We're also concerned about low awareness of HPV, particularly in boys, and its known links to a range of cancers. Almost one in three (30 per cent) teenagers and young adults say they have not heard of HPV. Of those teenagers and young adults who thought the HPV vaccinations protect people from infections that can cause cancer, half (50 per cent) believe it is only effective for girls and women.

Teenage Cancer Trust Chief Executive, Kate Collins, said:

The vaccine should be made available for free on the NHS to all men and boys up to the age of 25 who want it, as it is for women and girls. While it’s great some boys from this year onwards will have the same protection against HPV-related cancers that teenage girls and women have had for a decade, a generation of teenage boys and young men are being denied that chance.

Parents of school-age boys may well find one child will get the HPV vaccine for free, whereas an older son will only be protected if they can afford to pay for it. That simply isn’t fair, and the cost of around £150 per dose is unaffordable for many.

Not vaccinating older teenage boys puts them as risk as it relies on the false presumption they will only have sexual partners who don’t have HPV. It undermines the UK’s progress on reducing HPV linked cancers, such as cervical cancer, as this ‘missing generation’ of boys can get and share HPV with others who’ve not been vaccinated. And it contradicts the NHS’s own message that universal vaccinations are for the common good.

We're the only UK charity dedicated to providing specialist nursing care and support to young people with cancer. The charity funds specialist clinical treatment centres in 28 NHS hospitals, as well as nurses and youth workers to support young people at every stage of their cancer treatment. We also speaks up for young people and commissioned this research to understand young people’s concerns around the HPV vaccination programme.

To find out more about our call for making the HPV vaccine more widely available to boys and men go to www.teenagecancertrust.org/hpv.

Join our #JabsForLads campaign

ENDS

For more information or to set up an interview with a Teenage Cancer Trust spokesperson, please contact Zena Ambrose or Izzie Marshall on media@teenagecancertrust.org or 020 7612 0377 during office hours or the duty press officer on 0757 225 1265 outside of office hours.

Notes to editors

About Teenage Cancer Trust

  • Every day, seven young people in the UK aged 13 to 24 hear the words "you have cancer".
  • Teenage Cancer Trust puts young people in the best possible place, physically, mentally and emotionally, for their cancer treatment and beyond.
  • We do it through our expert nurses, support teams, and hospital units. And we're the only UK charity dedicated to providing this specialised nursing care and support.
  • Teenage Cancer Trust is a registered charity: 1062559 (England & Wales), SC039757 (Scotland).

About the research

The survey was conducted by Survation via an online panel between 29 July - 12 August 2019. 2002 people aged 13 to 24 in the UK took part, and the results have been weighted to be representative of the UK. Respondents aged 13 to 15 took part with parental consent. Survation is a member of The British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

About HPV vaccinations

  • The vaccine given to teenagers in the UK protects against two types of HPV, HPV 16 and 18, that cause about 90 per cent of genital warts cases as well as the main cancer-causing types of HPV.
  • The HPV vaccination programme for girls has reduced the prevalence of HPV 16 and 18 by more than 80 per cent in the UK since its inception in 2008. These strains of HPV cause most cervical cancer cases.
  • Teenage school boys who are already age 13 to 18 in Scotland or 14 to 18 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland by the start of this school year won’t be vaccinated through the school programme. Based on ONS data on school attendance, this is more than a million teenage boys.
  • Since 2008, girls aged 12 to 13 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and girls age 11 to 12 in Scotland have been offered vaccination against HPV via an NHS vaccination programme.
  • From this school year (2019-20) the vaccination is being offered to everyone in specific year groups in the UK, whereas it was only given to girls before:
nation which students are eligible to get the vaccine in school from when when pledged
England school year 8, age 12 and 13 from September 2019 July 2018
Northern Ireland school year 9, age 12 and 13 from September 2019 April 2019
Scotland school year S1, age 11 and 12 from September 2019 July 2018
Wales school year 8, age 12 and 13 from January 2020 July 2019

About HPV

  • There are more than 200 types of HPV, and the 13 HPV types linked to cancer are called high-risk HPV.
  • HPV spreads through close skin-to-skin contact, usually during sexual activity including oral sex. Having more sexual partners increases your chances of infection. But there are other ways to pick up an infection.
  • Cancers that can affect men, such as cancer of the anus, penis, head and neck, are also linked to infection with HPV types 16 and 18.
  • In the UK each year, HPV causes around 1,400 head and neck cancers, 350 penile cancers, and nearly 400 anal cancers.
  • Men who have sex with men are at higher risk of HPV infection and 15 times more likely to develop anal cancer than heterosexual men.
  • WHO figures estimate worldwide, HPV types 16 and 18 cause about five per cent of all cancers, including:
    • 90 per cent of anal cancers
    • 85 per cent of head and neck cancers
    • 78 per cent of vaginal cancers
    • 50 per cent of penile cancers
    • 25 per cent of vulval cancers.
  • The UK has one of the highest uptakes of HPV vaccinations. In comparison, in France, only one in four (25 per cent) girls are vaccinated.