Experts make call for expansion of HPV vaccine in Ireland

Posted on: 06 May 2014

A new study by researchers in the School of Medicine, Trinity College Dublin, has revealed a high rate of vaccine-preventable cancer-associated HPV infection in men who have sex with men. The scientists report that the incidence of human papillomavirus virus (HPV)-associated anal cancer is increasing and that men who have sex with men (MSM), particularly those co-infected with HIV, are disproportionately affected. HPV also now accounts for approximately 20% of head, neck and throat cancers in Ireland and the incidence is steadily increasing. The research was just published in the leading, peer-reviewed, international journal, HIV Medicine.

The researchers working in the Department of Genito-Urinary Medicine and Infectious Diseases (GUIDE) in St James’s Hospital and the School of Medicine, Trinity say that the identified prevalence of HPV associated disease in MSM in Ireland strengthens the call for universal vaccination of boys with the additional provision of catch-up and targeted vaccination of high-risk groups such as MSM and those with HIV infection. The provision of the HPV vaccine for girls-only has been in place in Ireland since 2010. HPV vaccine coverage and completion in girls in Ireland is greater than 85%.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in Ireland and worldwide. It is highly prevalent in the sexually active population and is rapidly acquired after sexual debut. In this study of MSM in Ireland, half of whom were HIV positive, the researchers found a high incidence of HPV infection (69%) with 27% of those studied having a particular type of HPV (HPV type 16) which has been shown to be associated with over 80% of anal cancers.

Speaking about the significance of these findings, Professor Colm Bergin, Clinical Professor of Infectious Diseases, Trinity and Principal Investigator of the study said: “Our study highlights the burden of anal HPV infection in MSM and those with HIV co-infection. A significant proportion of participants in our study did not have evidence of current infection with HR-HPV types 16 or 18, which are the HPV types most commonly associated with anal cancer. This indicates that a large proportion could benefit from HPV vaccination.”

Speaking about the potential benefits of expanding coverage of the HPV vaccination programme in Ireland, lead author, Dr Corinna Sadlier, Clinical Research Fellow, Trinity, said: “The National Immunisation Advisory Committee has recently moved to recommend HPV vaccine for individuals (male and female) with immunocompromising conditions such as HIV. In addition, it is stated that HPV vaccine should be considered in MSM up to the age of 26 years and may be given to boys aged 9 to 26 years. The greatest benefit of the HPV vaccine has been demonstrated prior to sexual debut. Universal vaccination of boys and girls as is offered in the US and Australia is the ideal. While we await guidance on the provision of HPV vaccine for boys this data would support the provision of targeted vaccination of high-risk groups. Public Health and National Policymaker support is needed if these guidelines are to be implemented and if this new information is to be integrated into national policy.”

The paper’s abstract is available online here:

For media queries contact: Press Officer for the Faculty of Health Sciences, Trinity College Dublin, Yolanda Kennedy,


Media Coverage:

RTE One News, Friday May 2nd, 2014
RTE News Online, Friday May 2nd, 2014

The Irish Sun, May 3rd, 2014,

98 FM, May 2nd, 2014



Media Contact:

Yolanda Kennedy, Former Press Officer for the Faculty of Health Sciences | | +353 1 896 4168