From September 2019, boys in school year eight will be offered the free Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine for the first time.
Modelling produced by the University of Warwick estimate that the HPV vaccine programme could prevent over 64,000 cervical cancers and nearly 50,000 non-cervical cancers by 2058.
Despite this being the first introduction of the vaccine for boys, girls have been offered the jab free from the NHS since 2008. So far, 10 million doses of vaccine have been given to young women in this country meaning over 80% of women aged 15 to 24 have received the vaccine.
Two doses are needed to be fully protected, and so the first dose will be offered to boys and girls aged 12 and 13 in year eight, with the second dose being given anytime between six to 24 months after.
Girls and boys who have their first vaccination after the age of 15 will need to have three doses.
Studies have already shown that the vaccine protects against HPV infection for at least 10 years, although experts expect protection to last for much longer and may be lifelong.
Head of Immunisation at Public Health England, Dr Mary Ramsay, said that the universal programme offers the opportunity to “make HPV-related diseases a thing of the past and build on the success of the girls’ programme.”
She continued, “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."
Worldwide, about 5% of all cancers are linked to the HPV virus. This includes cervical, penile, anal and genital cancers and some cancers of the head and neck – all of which the vaccine helps to protect against. Cervical cancer is currently the most common cancer in women under 35, killing around 850 women each year. HPV is thought to be responsible for over 99% of cervical cancers, as well as 90% of anal, about 70% of vaginal and vulvar cancers and more than 60% of penile cancers.