On Dec 16 the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) announced a recommended extension of the National Immunisation Program for Human papillomavirus (HPV) in boys which will be provided to the Australian Government for approval.
Studies confirm that, compared with women, men of all ages know far less about HPV and the benefits of an HPV vaccination for them according to Professor Marian Pitts, Director of La Trobe University’s Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society (ARCSHS).
‘Most people now know that HPV is a major cause of cervical cancer, but few realise that the virus can affect other sites, including the ano-genital tract and cancers of the head and neck.’
‘There has been a rapid increase world-wide in the incidence of cancers in the head and neck, most especially oropharyngeal—tonsils and tongue—cancers,’ says Professor Pitts.
This recommended immunisation program will include ongoing administration to males approximately twelve to thirteen years of age in a school-based program.
It also includes two catch-up cohorts for all males in the two year groups above the ongoing cohort, delivered over two years for Year 9 males, on the basis of acceptable cost effectiveness compared with female-only vaccination.
Australia is internationally acclaimed for the success of its vaccination programs, which have achieved a widespread coverage, only dreamt of in other countries in Europe and North America.
‘Ironically, however, it is this very success that means that young Australian men have not in the past benefitted from a funded school based vaccination program,’ says Professor Pitts.
‘Given our outstanding success in vaccinating over 80 per cent of eligible young women, we are overjoyed the benefits of this vaccine will become available to our young men,’ she says.
‘Our national studies have shown that while young people’s knowledge of HPV and cervical cancer is generally poor, there has been an educative element to vaccination, with those reporting HPV vaccination demonstrating better knowledge.’
‘These recommendations will spread knowledge of HPV and help promote the health and well being of Australia’s society,’ says Professor Pitts.
‘Australia is already seeing strong evidence of the health benefits from vaccinating young women and will be the first country in the world to offer a comprehensive school based vaccination program to both young men and young women. It’s a marvellous example of a timely and evidence based public health response.’
(Source: La Trobe University)
For more information on immunisation, including the childhood immunisation scedule, types of vaccines, preconception screening, as well as some useful videos, see Immunisation.