Following a request from the Department of Health, the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has agreed to undertake a health technology assessment (HTA) on extending the national immunisation schedule to include human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination of boys. HIQA’s research will establish the clinical and cost-effectiveness of providing HPV vaccination to boys.
HPV is the virus that causes cervical cancer in women. It is known that there are other cancers associated with this virus that affect both men and women, such as anal, genital and oropharyngeal (throat) cancer. HPV is associated with the development of penile cancer in men, as well as being the cause of genital warts in both men and women.
The vaccination has hit headlines locally and nationally, with some 400 Irish teenage girls claiming adverse reactions from the injection. Leitrim's Rebecca Hollidge has been the one of the girls to speak out about her experience, the Hollidge family blame the vaccination for some of Rebecca's serious medical issues.
While campaigners against the vaccination and those looking for more information to be made available to parents will not be happy to hear about the possible extension of the national programme to include boys, the assessment says it will also look at the safety and clinical effectiveness of the HPV vaccination.
HIQA’s Director of Health Technology Assessment and Deputy Chief Executive Dr Máirín Ryan said, “HPV infection is the most commonly acquired sexually transmitted viral infection. In most cases it causes no symptoms and is cleared by the body’s immune system. However, persistent infection can lead to the development of cancer.”
Ireland has a nationally funded, school-based, girls-only HPV immunisation programme. This commenced in 2010 with the quadrivalent (Gardasil®) vaccine which protects against four strains of the HPV virus (6, 11, 16 and 18).
Dr Ryan continued, “The HPV vaccine has been proven to be safe. Additionally, it is highly effective at preventing infection with the HPV types most commonly linked with cancer and genital warts in both men and women. This HTA will investigate the clinical and cost-effectiveness of expanding the HPV vaccination programme to include boys, thereby extending them the opportunity to benefit from the vaccine and increasing HPV immunity in the wider population.”
HIQA is currently forming an expert advisory group comprising representatives from key stakeholder groups who will advise the HTA evaluation team during the course of this assessment.
The final results of the HTA are expected next year and will be submitted to the Minister for Health for consideration.
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