After the girls, the boys. A decree published on December 4 at Official newspaper authorizes reimbursement of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine Gardasil 9 to boys aged 11 to 14.
This vaccine was already recommended and reimbursed since 2007 for girls aged 11 to 14 – and catch-up between 15 and 19 years – as a prevention tool against cancer of the cervix induced by certain types of HPV. It was also recommended and reimbursed for men under 26 who have sex with men (MSM). And Gardasil had seen its status evolve in December 2019, when the High Authority of Health (HAS) had recommended vaccination for both sexes.
Also read: No, young girls vaccinated against HPV do not have sex earlier
1,750 HPV-related cancers in men
Why generalize this vaccination? First of all, because the HPV vaccine does not only protect against cancer of the cervix. It also protects against cancers of the anus, penis and ENT cancers. That is to say, mixed or even exclusively male cancers. Thus, around 1,750 new cases of cancer induced by HPV occur each year in France in men, and 4,580 in women, recalled the HAS in 2019.
Stop the transmission of the virus
Then, the current vaccine coverage against HPV does not reach 30%. A figure well below the 60% targets set by the 2014-2019 cancer plan.
Gold “the vaccination of boys is viewed very favorably by general practitioners who cite it as the main lever for increasing vaccination coverage“noted the HAS. A good way to protect a maximum of young men and young women. Because as the papillomavirus is a sexually transmitted virus, vaccinating both sexes can protect a maximum of people by slowing the transmission of the virus.
Finally, for HAS, “HPV vaccination limited to girls and MSM raises questions of ethics, equal access to vaccination and stigma linked to sexual orientation and lack of privacy“.
Combine vaccination and screening
In practice, the recommendation to vaccinate boys against HPV infections will be applicable in France on January 1, 2021, when it will appear, like that of girls, in the official vaccination schedule from the Ministry of Health.
In all cases, the vaccine does not exempt young women from regular screening for cervical cancer by smear or HPV test. It is indeed the alliance of screening and vaccination that makes it possible to fight this cancer, as the example of Australia shows.
In this country, free vaccination campaigns for girls since 2007 and for boys since 2013 have been implemented in addition to regular screening among women. Since then, Australia has seen a drop in the number of cervical cancer and could be in the process of eradicating this disease within 10 to 20 years.