The government has confirmed that it will introduce a nationwide HPV vaccination programme for men aged 45 or younger who have sex with other men.
NHS England and Public Health England (PHE) will work to start the programme in sexual health (GUM) clinics and HIV clinics in England from April 2018.
HPV is a virus transmitted through sexual contact. It is most commonly associated with causing cervical cancer in women. Girls aged 11 to 13 have been vaccinated against the HPV virus since 2008, and this provides indirect protection to many males. Men who have sex with men do not benefit from indirect protection from the vaccination programme for girls.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has recognised increasing evidence of the association between HPV infection and non-cervical cancers in men who have sex with men.
A vaccination pilot started in 42 specialist sexual health services clinics in June 2016. The pilot assessed the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of a national HPV vaccination programme.
The vaccination pilot was a success.
A phased nationwide rollout will now go ahead to help protect men who have sex with men from some cancers caused by HPV as well as genital warts.
As the rollout is phased, patients should not contact their clinics to request the vaccine. Patients will be offered the vaccine as part of their routine sexual health check-up if it is available.
Dr Michael Edelstein, Consultant Epidemiologist at PHE, said:
Our evidence shows that men who have sex with men are welcoming an HPV vaccination programme, and it can be delivered successfully through sexual health services.
Men who have sex with men are a group who receive little indirect protection from the adolescent girls’ vaccination programme. We expect the new programme to reduce the number of cancers that are directly caused by HPV.