Boys aged 12 and 13 will be offered the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine on the NHS from September for the first time, Public Health England (PHE) has announced.
England is following Scotland and Wales in the extension to boys of the free HPV vaccination programme, which was previously only available to teenage girls. The Department of Health in Northern Ireland will also make the vaccine available to boys from September.
According to PHE, around five per cent of all cancers globally are linked to the HPV virus and researchers at the University of Warwick claim the vaccine will have prevented over 64,000 HPV-related cervical cancers and nearly 50,000 other HPV-related cancers by 2058.
“This universal programme offers us the opportunity to make HPV-related diseases a thing of the past and build on the success of the girls’ programme,” said Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at PHE.
“Offering the vaccine to boys will not only protect them but will also prevent more cases of HPV-related cancers in girls and reduce the overall burden of these cancers in both men and women in the future.
“I encourage all parents of eligible boys and girls to make sure they take up the offer for this potentially life-saving vaccine. It’s important not to delay vaccination, as the vaccine may be less effective as adolescents get older.”
Health minister Seema Kennedy said: “The success of the HPV vaccine programme for girls is clear and by extending it to boys we will go a step further to help us prevent more cases of HPV-related cancer every year.
“Through our world-leading vaccination programme, we have already saved millions of lives and prevented countless cases of terrible diseases. Experts predict that we could be on our way toward eliminating cervical cancer for good.
“Programmes like this are at the heart of our work to help people live longer, healthier lives through the NHS Long Term Plan and I would encourage everyone who is eligible to take up this potentially life-saving vaccine.”