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Dentists: HPV pledge will save lives


  Posted by: The Probe      24th July 2018

The British Dental Association (BDA) has warmly welcomed the Government’s announcement that all 12 and 13-year-olds in England will be vaccinated against the human papillomavirus (HPV).

Devolved administrations in Wales and Scotland were quick to commit to expansion of their vaccination programmes, which currently just cover 12-13 year old girls, to boys following last Wednesday’s recommendations from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). 

The BDA has been a leading voice in the call for a gender-neutral approach to the vaccinations, which was acknowledged by Health Minister, Steve Brine MP, in Parliament today as he made the announcement.

Currently vaccinations are provided to school age girls as protection from cervical cancer. HPV has emerged as the leading cause of throat cancers, especially among young people, and rates are rising steeply overall.

The condition is linked to 5% of all cancers worldwide, including some that affect only men ((cervical, vaginal, vulvar, penile, anal, and oral (mouth and throat), as well as genital warts)).

Over 30 people in Britain are diagnosed with oral (including mouth and throat) cancers every day. Over the last decade, oral cancer incidence rates have increased by almost a quarter (23%) in the UK, making it one of the fastest rising types of cancer, and it has a higher incidence among men. Around nine out of 10 oral cancer cases are linked to preventable causes like smoking, alcohol and contracting HPV.

Dentist leaders have expressed their hope this move will mark a sea change on public policy on prevention. The BDA has been a vocal critic of sweeping cuts to local public health budgets, and government’s unwillingness to commit any new investment to tackle tooth decay – currently the number one reason for hospital admissions among young children. 

The decision leaves Northern Ireland – currently operating without a government – as the only major UK jurisdiction yet to commit to extending their programme.  

BDA Chair Mick Armstrong said: 

“This decision will save lives. When our NHS faces such sustained pressure from so many preventable conditions, from cancers, to tooth decay and obesity, this sort of cost-effective intervention must not be a one off.  

“Health professionals need this breakthrough on HPV to mark the beginning, and not the end, of this government’s willingness to invest in prevention.” 

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