It is the view of Public Health England that a catch-up vaccination programme for boys is not necessary, as evidence suggests that they are already benefiting from the indirect protection known as herd protection, which has been built up from the 10 years of the girls’ programme.
I thank the Minister for her answer, but the boys who will be vaccinated in the first cohort are at the same risk of HPV infection and related diseases as older boys who will not be eligible for the vaccination, and the Government are therefore missing an opportunity to protect more boys. The herd immunity the Minister spoke of does not apply to boys who may go on to have sex with men or with women who have not been vaccinated. Will the Minister therefore urge her colleagues in the Department of Health and Social Care to reconsider this policy on equality grounds?
I thank the hon. Lady for raising this important question. There are additional programmes specifically for the groups that she mentioned. For example, a vaccination programme is being rolled out for men who have sex with men. Obviously the broad principle of the wider screening programme is to do the most good, and not to do any harm. That is the basis on which decisions are being made.
Will my right hon. Friend join me in welcoming the roll-out of the HPV screening test for women? Does she agree that it will increase the number of people who are detected early and reduce the risk of women having cervical cancer?
Yes, and the roll-out has already had a considerable impact. The Department of Health and Social Care will keep these policies under review, but the programme has been an immense success.
Further to the 2018 Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation recommendation for boys to be offered the vaccine, I have been in contact with the permanent secretary of the Department of Health in Northern Ireland. Has the Minister had any opportunity to discuss with him the push for the vaccine to be given throughout all of the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland?
As the hon. Gentleman will know, the healthcare systems in all four nations are in close discussion about all these things. They are driven by evidence and want to see evidence of what is going on in other nations. So yes, those conversations do take place. I will ask the relevant Minister to write to him on the specific point he raised.
I thank the Minister for what she said about providing the HPV vaccine for gay men on equality grounds. May I encourage her to keep an open mind to extending it to boys, on the same principle?
As I said, these decisions are taken on a clinical basis by people who are looking closely at the evidence, and they keep the policies under review.