Universal HPV vax may stymie growth in head and neck cancers

Health Minister Tanya Plibersek announced last week that Gardasil (CSL, Merck) would be free to boys aged 12 and 13 through a school-based program from next year, at a cost of $21.1 million to the National Immunisation Program. Year 9 boys can also be vaccinated as part of a catch-up program to run for two years.

“Already the HPV vaccine has had an impact, significantly reducing the number of lesions that lead to cervical cancer amongst women in the vaccinated age group,” Ms Plibersek said.

Professor Ian Olver, CEO of Cancer Council Australia, said the addition of the vaccine for boys was expected to deliver a 24% decrease in cancer rates in girls by 2050.

Director of the University of Queensland Diamantina Institute, Professor Matt Brown, emphasised that many members of the public remained unaware that HPV was a major cause of head and neck cancer. “There are going to be major benefits to boys