MSD - Protecting 400,000 boys every year from HPV

Protecting 400,000 boys every year from HPV.

Every year, HPV causes 7,000 cases of cancer in the UK, which claim the lives of men and women alike.

The most dangerous strains of HPV are vaccine-preventable, yet only girls were included in the HPV national immunisation programme (NIP). This left up to 400,000 boys per year in the UK without direct protection. Despite this, the Department of Health and Social Care’s (DHSC’s) JCVI committee initially stated that it was could not recommend the toll-out of Gender Neutral Vaccination.

The JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) is an expert panel which meets in private. As a result public affairs activity around NIP (National Immunisation Programme) decisions is notoriously challenging.

Bringing support for the campaign

Our campaign successfully encouraged senior figures within DHSC to support GNV, which ensured that it would interpret the Committee’s advice in a positive way.

And our campaign clarified the evidence and built overwhelming advocacy for this change, leading to one of the largest health policy U-turns in recent years.

We translated the scientific evidence into easily understandable language so that parliamentarians and the public could get behind it.

We brought together stakeholders including policymakers, academics, parliamentarians and third sector stakeholders such as Cancer Research UK, SAPNHA and HPV Action to press for a positive decision.

We developed a first of it’s kind ‘state of the nation’ publication, Milestones in HPV Prevention – celebrating the many public health achievements of the cervical screening and HPV immunisation programme, but also exploring its future potential.

A further report on ‘Inequalities in uptake of the HPV National Immunisation Programme’, distributed to MPs and stakeholders, used custom heat maps to illustrate the problem of low-uptake areas.

We supported the Mail on Sunday in running their own campaign for GNV (Gender Neutral vaccination), through a series of five articles which used personal case studies to tell the human story of the disease.

Recommendations that save lives

In July 2018, the JCVI changed its advice to a positive recommendation, and in turn the Departments of Health across the UK confirmed that GNV would be implemented.

Our campaign meant that DHSC committed to taking the very rare step of carrying out an equality impact assessment, that it considered in addition to the JCVI’s advice.

Public Health England now predict that this campaign will prevent around 29,000 cancers in men by 2058, while also increasing protection for women.

Voted as the sixth most significant public health achievement of the 21st century by Royal Society for Public Health members.

Cancer Research UK and the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry declared that this decision was amongst 10 pivotal health policy announcements of 2018.

The announcement was also highlighted as a key policy development in the NHS Long Term Plan.