Vaccinate boys to fight HPV, says Erasmus virologist

Ab Osterhaus, a virologist at the Erasmus University, wants the Health Council to consider also vaccinating boys against the human papilloma virus (HPV), BNR reports.

HPV is asymptomatic in most cases, but can cause cancers of the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis, pharynx and anus. In the Netherlands only girls are vaccinated against the virus to help prevent cervical cancer. According to Osterhaus, there is a trend of an increasing number of cases of cancer of the nose, throat, mouth, anus and penis, 70 to 80 percent of which is caused by this virus, and which entail the same kind as problems as cervical cancer. By also vaccinating boys, a large number of these cases can be prevented. "If you vaccinate men, the entire program becomes much more effective against the whole cycle of the virus which passes from women to men." Osterhaus said to BNR.

Osterhaus refutes criticism that the vaccine against cervical cancer is not sufficiently effective. He feels that the functioning has been efficiently established, but it is ultimately up to the Health Council to decide. "The big question is whether such a program is cost effective. That is to say: do the costs associated with the vaccination weigh up against the number of cancers caused and is the disease serious enough?"

For the Health Council it is primarily about effectiveness, president Pim van Gool told BNR. Although he did acknowledge that the cost must ultimately be weighed against the benefits. According to him, a scientific analysis of the issue is sorely needed and he will soon discuss it with Minister Edith Schippers of Public Health.