Should boys in Wales aged 13 to 18 also be offered the HPV vaccine?

Boys between the ages of 12 and 13 in Wales will receive the HPV vaccine from September. However, those above 13 will remain unprotected and a catch-up programme might be needed.


Boys aged between 12 and 13 in Wales will be eligible for the HPV vaccine starting this coming school year. However, boys over the age of 13 will not be vaccinated.

Vaccinations will begin in Welsh schools in September in an attempt to prevent anal and penile cancers, but campaigners in Cardiff are calling for a catch-up programme to provide boys aged up to 18 with the vaccine, in order to benefit as many boys as many as possible.

“We are pleased that the HPV vaccine will be gender neutral this year but it still needs to capture groups who might have missed out,” says Ceri Dunstan, the Policy and Campaigns Officer for sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust.

“We feel that providing the vaccine to all boys until the age of 18 rather than just 12 to 13 year olds is the best way to protect the largest number of boys,” she says.

HPV infections are so common that nearly all men and women get at least 1 type of HPV at some point in their lives.

The Terrence Higgins Trust believes that 12 to 18 would be the most effective age group.

“It is far more effective if they [young adults] receive the vaccine before they start becoming sexually active,” says Ceri.

Such a catch-up programme for girls aged up to 18 was implemented in the early stages of providing the HPV vaccine in 2008, which greatly decreased the number of HPV-related infections in females.

Therefore, in addition to The Terrence Higgins Trust, 16 leading experts in the field of HPV and some LGBT organizations support this catch-up programme for boys as well. However, Ceri explains, “At the moment, it doesn’t look like the government is going to do that in Wales.”

One argument for not vaccinating boys is that, given sexual intercourse and skin-to-skin contact are the main causes of HPV infections, they will automatically be protected from girls being vaccinated.

“But we’ve seen quite clearly that this hasn’t been happening because boys who have relationships with girls not being vaccinated and who have sex with men(MSM) are not protected,” says Ceri.

In order to reduce the risk of the HPV infection in males, a campaign has been launched to provide the HPV vaccine for MSM aged 16-45 in Wales since last year.

“But it’s not very in front of them. They have to go and seek out themselves. It still should be a school-based programme because they are in a school, making it easy to reach them,” says Ceri.

Here are some sexual health clinics available in Cardiff: