Campaign Director for HPV Action, Peter Baker, gave an impassioned speech on the importance of a catch-up programme for the gender-neutral HPV vaccination at a recent European Cancer Summit.
The Resolution session, which took place last month, was held in a bid to identify the elimination of HPV related cancers and diseases as part of a new campaign being extended to Europe.
Peter Baker, who partnered with Throat Cancer Foundation chief executive Jamie Rae to lead a campaign to achieve gender-neutral vaccination for HPV, told of the coalition’s battle to receive support for the life-saving immunisation.
But he vowed to keep a watchful eye on the roll out of the recent vaccination for boys, and to continue to fight for a catch-programme that would allow boys over the age of 13 to access the vaccination also.
Mr Baker said: “We’re going to be watching very closely what happens as the programme rolls out, to make sure that it’s actually implemented properly.
“We’re also still campaigning on the issue of catch-up, and I think we didn’t think about this enough when it was part of our original work. I think we focused so much on getting the vaccination for boys that we forgot about the catch-up issue.
“I think it’s very important that all those boys that can be vaccinated, ARE vaccinated, before they get to the age of 18 at least.
“We are still pressing for the vaccination programme to be extended to older boys.”
Evidence now shows that the HPV vaccine helps protect both boys and girls from HPV-related cancers including throat cancer.
The rate of people being diagnosed with tongue, tonsil and oropharyngeal cancers has increased by almost 60 per cent in the last 10 years.
The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination programme is being rolled out to 11 to 13-year-old boys across the UK from January 2020.
However, Throat Cancer Foundation boss Jamie Rae says the Scottish Government’s refusal to offer a potentially life-saving HPV vaccine catch-up programme to boys over 13 will force hard-up families to choose between feeding their families or protecting their kids.
Figures from the Childhood Immunisation Statistics Scotland (ISD) show at least 100,000 boys are being missed by not offering catch-up.
“We know that there’s an appetite for organisations in Europe to take this forward,” Peter continued. “There is an opportunity to create a new coalition, perhaps along the lines of what we used in the UK.
“The two main instigator organisations that I have to pay tribute to were the Throat Cancer Foundation and the HPV and Anal Cancer Foundation.
“Those two organisations came together and decided that some kind of campaign around HPV for vaccination would be useful. That led to the development of a coalition of over 50 very diverse, professional and patient organisations.
“I think this was a fundamental strength of the campaign that we ran in the UK. Cancer organisations were at the heart of it, but it wasn’t just cancer organisations, it was those with an interest in oral health, sexual health, public health, men’s health and gay men’s health.
“It was a really broad coalition and I think if we’re thinking about running a similar initiative in Europe, we also have to think about using a much more diverse than a scientific or medical campaign. The involvement of patient groups, alongside professional groups alongside stakeholders with an interest, is fundamentally important to getting the message across and making the kind of political noise that is necessary to achieve change.”