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Victory for Men and Boys Coalition on bringing the Equalities and Human Rights Commission into the HPV Vaccination for boys campaign

The Men and Boys Coalition has been supporting HPV Action and the full range of its members in campaigning to ensure that the HPV Vaccination is extended to boys aged 12-13. Many other well-known figures have also supported the campaign, as has the Daily Mail which has run a series of articles calling for action on the issue.

The United States, Austria, Canada and Australia and around 10 other countries recommend vaccination for males as well. Australia was the first country to implement a comprehensive vaccination programme for all boys aged 12/13.In the UK, it has been argued that it is only necessary to vaccinate girls aged 12/13 because, once vaccination take-up exceeds 80%, ‘herd protection’ ensures that boys are automatically also protected against HPV infection.

Alongside supporting the wellbeing of men and boys, a key aim of the Coalition is to tackle areas where men and boys face discrimination and the vaccination of 12-13 year old girls against HPV, whilst not vaccinating boys, is clearly a stark example of discrimination against boys.

In addition, the Coalition does not seek to replace equalities campaigns that its members or other organisations are campaigning on, but does aim to work on areas that are not being covered. This is why we campaigned to ensure  that the Equalities and Human Rights Commission were asked to get involved — because as far as we are aware no other organisation was specifically engaging with the EHRC on this issue — and over six months we have managed to persuade them to do so.

In advance of a Parliamentary Debate at 9.30am tomorrow (02.05.2018) led by Sir Roger Gale MP, the Commission has issued a briefing note but more importantly has called on the Government to:

  • carry out and publishes a robust assessment of the equality implications of not extending the HPV vaccination programme to all boys, in line with the requirement of the Public Sector Equality Duty in the Equality Act 2010; and
  • ensure that its decision is compatible with Articles 2 and 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998 and Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

The Commission has not gone as far as we would like as it continues to use ‘may’ as a conditional word, when clearly they should be stating the unconditional word ‘is’. For example:

It says:

  • For there may be a moral case for providing the HPV vaccine to all boys based on the right of everyone to enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health

We would prefer the Commission to unequivocally state that the Government has to ensure boys are vaccinated and take legal action if it does not – however, the fact that the Commission recognises that this is an equality issue that affects men and boys is a huge step forward – and a step that we believe would not have been taken on this issue without the involvement of the Coalition.