NHS immunises girls but not boys against potentially deadly HPV virus because its ‘not cost-effective’
Author: Jacob Dirnhuber
Girls aged 12 to 13 are already vaccinated for free against the HPV virus, which can cause deadly tumours in the throat and mouth, but boys have to do without.
Experts believe it would take £22 million a year to vaccinate every boy in Britain against the deadly disease – a fraction of the vast £148 billion NHS budget. But low overall infection rates mean that bean-counters refuse to sign off on any additional funding – condemning thousands to months of expensive, agonising cancer treatment.
Cambridge University Professor Margaret Stanley blasted: “You cannot protect against these cancers by only vaccinating half the population.”
She told the Mail on Sunday: “Not to immunise boys is classic Treasury short-termism. You may not spend so much now, but it will cost far more years later.
“We are in the midst of an HPV pandemic.”
HPV is generally spread through genital and oral sex, and can also be transmitted by kissing – meaning that some people who contract it are virgins. Only a tiny minority of those infected go on to develop cancer, often decades after they contract the virus. An estimated 80 per cent of all adults in the UK have been infected at some point.
Throat and cancer specialist Professor Christopher Nutting said: “My patients are being struck down by a preventable cancer that will affect them for the rest of their lives.
“It’s unfair that women are protected but men are not. The vaccine will work. It is starting to make cervical cancer incredibly rare. Why wouldn’t we do the same for cancer of the throat?’
Figures show that in 2011 alone the HPV virus triggered cancers in 1,850 people – and a staggering 1,400 of those were men.
Businessman Chris Curtis, 59, who contracted oropharyngeal cancer after becoming infected, said: “There is something out there that can stop this happening. We’ve got to use it.”
Opening up about his harrowing time with the disease, he said: “My family would eat in the dining room and I would be stuck being fed through my tube by machine.
“I planned suicide twice. All that stopped me was the thought of my kids.
“You’ve seen the cream-cracker challenge? ” live with that every minute of every day. I look at a burger and chips and I see cardboard. If I eat a tomato, it feels like it’s exploding in my mouth – it’s intolerable.
“For months the cancer takes over your life, and there is no respite. It tests you to breaking point.”
Prof Pollard, of the NHS Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, said the committee could only recommend vaccinating boys if it found this conformed with the “health technology assessment methodology’, which is derived from the Treasury’s ‘Green book’.
“Under the rules we are only looking at cost-effectiveness from the health providers’ perspective.”
“Each possible vaccine had to be considered in the context of the NHS as a whole”