From 2 March 2015, Switzerland has been recommending that boys and young men get vaccinated against the human papillomavirus (HPV). The aim is to protect them against genital warts and the cancers to which these viruses can lead. In France, only young girls can be immunised.
“Vaccination against HPV is recommended as a supplementary immunisation for boys and young men aged 11 to 26”, explains the OFSP (Switzerland’s Federal Public Health Office). “The tumours for which it has been possible to identify a causal link with these viruses are, as well as cervical cancer, anal cancer which is caused by HPV in 88% of cases, oropharyngeal cancer (between 13% and 56% of cases) and cancer of the penis”, the Swiss office explains. Furthermore, “more than 80% of anal cancers are caused specifically by HPV types 16 and 18, the antigens for which are contained in the vaccines.”
Men could therefore benefit from a vaccine against the HPV 6, 11, 16 and 18 viruses. “The effectiveness of the tetravalent vaccine against persistent infections (by these viruses) in the anogenital region has been demonstrated”, the OFSP points out. Furthermore, it “is as safe for young men (as it is for young girls – ed. note).”
Another argument for including young men in vaccination against these viruses is that “at present there is no alternative preventive measure for HPV-related cancers other than for cervical cancer, for example by screening.”
A similar vaccination scheme
This vaccination is therefore being recommended in Switzerland for boys and men aged 11 to 26 (up to their 27th birthday), preferably between the ages of 11 and 14, before they become sexually active. “By analogy with the recommendations for girls, boys in good health aged between 11 and 14 should receive two doses of the vaccine with a six month interval between”, the Swiss Public Health Office reports. “From the age of 15 and for all those who are immunocompromised, three doses of the vaccine at 0, 1-2 and 6 months are recommended”.
Worldwide, other countries have already included boys in their HPV vaccination recommendations, including Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark and the United States.