Support for male HPV vaccination grows

(iStock / file)
(iStock / file)

Health experts are supporting a proposal to vaccinate boys against human papillomavirus (HPV), saying it will help save lives.

The HPV vaccine has been available free to girls in New Zealand since 2008 and now Pharmac is calling for public feedback on its proposal to widen funding.

"Boys are definitely at risk of HPV-related cancers, hence the importance of extending the vaccine to everybody in the community," says Dr Nikki Turner from the Immunisation Advisory Centre.

While the human papillomavirus is commonly associated with cervical cancer, about a third of all HPV-related cancers occur in men and surgeon John Chaplin says rates are on the rise.

"Recently what we've seen is an increase in the rate of throat cancer -- oropharyngeal cancer -- the rates of that have been recognised to double over the past 20 years," he says.

Ninety percent of oropharyngeal cancers are HPV-related and the virus is also linked to a number of others.

"It's associated with cancers of the mouth, the throat, the genital regions, the anus, many of these cancers are on the increase in the world," Dr Turner says.

Under the current scheme, 61 percent of eligible girls have been immunised.

It's hoped that by rolling out the vaccine to boys next year, it will prevent such cancers in the future.

HPV is estimated to be responsible for:

Source: University of Auckland.

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