From 2021, boys in the Netherlands will be vaccinated against the HPV virus. At this moment in time, only girls are vaccinated against the virus, which can cause cervical cancer.
Boys to receive HPV vaccination
Following the advice of the Health Council, State Secretary of Public Health, Paul Blokhuis, has decided that the HPV vaccination will become a part of the Dutch National Immunisation Program for all children in 2021. Additionally, the age at which it is given will be reduced from 13 to just 9 years old. This way, the vaccine can be better integrated into the Program. Those who have not received the vaccine have another chance to at age 14 or between ages 16 and 17.
Every year, around 1,000 women and 500 men develop cancer due to the virus. It's well known that women can develop cervical cancer because of the virus, but less known that men can develop mouth, throat, anus and penis cancer.
According to Blokhuis, "By offering boys the HPV-vaccine, we kill two birds with one stone. Boys are then protected against the virus and have a lower chance of getting awful diseases like throat cancer. Moreover, both girls and boys are even better protected by group protection. "The vaccine will be available to boys from 2021, as time is needed to buy in the vaccine and organize its implementation.
Extremely contagious virus
HPV is extremely contagious, and around eight in ten men and women contract it at some point in their lives. As with many viruses, the body sometimes gets rid of it on its own. In the case of HPV, this usually happens in about two years.
In other cases, high-risk variants of HPV can cause cancer. Some lower-risk variants of the virus cause genital warts. Having HPV doesn't mean that you automatically have cancer; it usually takes around 15 years, according to the Netherlands National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), for cervical cancer to form.
HPV is spread via sexual contact; however, this is not limited to intercourse, as the virus can also be found on the skin around the penis or vagina. Using a condom, therefore, doesn’t guarantee that you won’t become infected. Each year, 5,500 women undergo treatment for an early-stage of cervical cancer and more than 300 women and almost 200 men die from a type of cancer caused by the virus.
More young people being vaccinated
Girls have been being vaccinated against the HPV virus since 2010. This year, a record number of girls turned up to get the first injection, namely 65 percent of girls born in 2006. When it was the turn of those girls born in 2004, only a little more than 48 percent turned up for both injections.
In the Netherlands, when you turn 30, you'll receive an invitation to be screened for HPV. From this age, you'll be invited for a screening every five years. You don't need to go to a hospital for the test; you can simply make an appointment with your GP.
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