10 Jul 2014

Call to offer HPV vaccine to boys

5:00 pm on 10 July 2014

Rates of certain types of cancer could be reduced if a free HPV vaccine is offered to all young men in New Zealand, as it is in Australia, an immunisation expert says.

The Gardasil vaccine is offered free of charge to all young boys in Australia in an attempt to protect against genital warts but in New Zealand, boys have to pay more than $600 for it.

The argument here is if enough girls are vaccinated then heterosexual boys are also protected.

But University of Auckland Immunisation Advisory Centre director Nikki Turner said that meant homosexual men were not protected.

"The reality is there are many non-heterosexual boys, men who have sex with men, who will not get protection that way.

"And also, you need reasonably high rates of coverage in the girls to protect the boys.

"So the Australian argument went 'let's just vaccinate boys and girls.'"

The vaccine should be offered free of charge to all young men, Dr Turner said.

"Australia are seeing almost total eradication of genital warts in those who are vaccinated, and those who are contacts (of those) vaccinated.

"So it offers a lot of what we would call herd, or community, immunity protection, where it stops the spread of the virus."