HIQA wants to change to a more effective HPV vaccine

A report has recommended extending the scheme to boys

HPV vaccine, High Court, flu-like symptoms, Fiona Kirby, health, HSE

File photo | Image: RollingNews.ie

Health Minister Simon Harris has said he supports a proposal to extend the HPV vaccine to boys.

It comes on the back of a recommendation from the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) to change to a more effective vaccine, and extend the scheme.

It has published recommendations from a health technology assessment (HTA) on the clinical and cost-effectiveness of extending the programme.

Girls in their first year of secondary school are currently offered the four-valent vaccine, which protects against four types of HPV.

HIQA has advised that the National Immunisation Schedule switches from the four-valent vaccine to a nine-valent vaccine, which protects against an additional five types of HPV.

It also considered the ethical and organisational issues for giving the vaccine to boys.

The final report and recommendations were informed by four systematic reviews, an economic evaluation, an ethical and organisational analysis, engagement with an expert advisory group and a six-week public consultation.

The consultation received 242 submissions.

Health Minister Simon Harris has welcomed the proposed extension.

He said: "Funding has already been made available in the budget to facilitate the introduction of this initiative in 2019, subject to a favourable recommendation being made in the assessment report.

"The content of the assessment report will be reviewed by officials in my department and I expect to make an announcement on this proposal shortly."

The minister thanked HIQA for its work, and committed to working with the Department of Health to progress these plans next year.

Gender-neutral programme

HIQA's deputy chief executive, Dr Máirín Ryan, said: "The burden of HPV-related disease is substantial, with HPV responsible for approximately one in every 20 cases of cancer across the world.

"This assessment demonstrates that the HPV vaccine provides effective primary prevention against HPV infection and HPV-related disease, and that the vaccine is safe."

"A gender-neutral nine-valent vaccination programme, where both boys and girls are vaccinated, is estimated to be more effective than the girls-only alternative.

"It is likely that gender neutral nine-valent vaccination would also be cost-effective in light of the conservative assumptions used with regard to final cost, uptake rate and protection provided against all types of cancers."

He added: "Extending the HPV vaccine to boys provides direct protection against HPV-related disease to boys, indirect protection to girls who have not been vaccinated and would reduce HPV-related disease and mortality in Ireland.

"Over 20 years, a gender-neutral nine-valent programme will prevent an estimated 101 additional cases of cervical cancer compared with the current girls-only 4-valent programme."