Boots UK is launching a new private human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccination service which it says offers parents the chance to protect their sons as well as their daughters from contracting the virus.

School HPV vaccinations were introduced in the UK back in 2008 for girls aged 12 to 13 years, but campaigners are currently seeking to expand the scope of the immunisation programme to include boys.

While the need to protect against the virus is typically considered as a female issue, four out of five sexually active men and women will be infected with it at some point during their lives, leaving both sexes at risk of developing certain cancers.

“HPV is a common virus with over 100 different types, most of which are harmless, but some can lead to cervical cancer, and other associated cancers including anal, penile and head and neck in men and other HPV types can cause genital warts,” noted Dr Christian Jessen.

“The virus is spread by close skin to skin or sexual contact with another person already carrying the virus, which is why I encourage boys and girls to get vaccinated prior to being sexually active.”

Peter Baker, Campaign Director at HPV Action, says the NHS HPV vaccination programme should be extended to all teenage boys. “Without this, almost 400,000 more boys each year are being left at risk from HPV-related cancers. In the meantime, it’s important that parents and carers who want their sons to be vaccinated have the option of taking them to pharmacies”.

Boots UK is offering its HPV vaccination service in 68 stores, for both males and females aged 12-44 years old, at a cost of £300 for a course of two vaccinations and £450 for those aged 15 and over who will need a series of three vaccinations.

“We are delighted to be able to extend our HPV vaccination service, ensuring more men and boys across the UK have access to this important vaccination," said Richard Bradley, pharmacy director, Boots UK. "This is a fantastic example of how community pharmacists can use their clinical skills to support patients’ health in locations and at times that are convenient to them.”