Homosexual men in the UK are demanding to be vaccinated with Merck and Co's cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil, according to the BBC, which says that many private clinics are offering the vaccine to men.

Gardasil is indicated in the prevention of cervical cancer, precancerous and dysplastic lesions and genital warts caused by type 6, 11, 16 and 18 human papillomavirus and is approved for girls as well as boys aged nine to 15. It is also approved for adult females aged 16 to 26, but doctors can opt to give it to other people ‘off-licence’.

The BBC spoke to Dr Sean Cummings at the Freedom Health clinic in Harley Street, London, who said he is happy to recommend Gardasil to his adult male patients, at £450 for a three-dose course. "We've had a strong demand for it. I had a man come in for the vaccine this morning. He was 24. Then I have one this afternoon who is 67 years old. The motivation is to protect themselves and to prevent spreading HPV to their partners," he said.

Paul Fox, a genito-urinary medicine expert at the Chelsea and Westminster and Ealing hospitals in London, told the broadcaster that it is unlikely a person will have encountered all of the four strains of HPV found in Gardasil, even if they are leading a very promiscuous sex life. "We should not just be looking at vaccinating people in their pre-teen years. Other people would benefit as well," Dr Fox claimed although he said he would not urge mass vaccination until its efficacy can be established. Merck is currently testing the vaccine's efficacy in 4,000 men, including 500 men who have sex with men.

Texas governor defends stance on Gardasil

The concept of compulsory vaccination has caused uproar in the USA, particularly since the Governor of Texas, Rick Perry, announced plans for mandatory programmes for girls aged 11 and 12 to receive Gardasil before they can enter the sixth grade at school. The governor has been defending his links with Merck, saying it would be irresponsible to ignore the company’s views on mandatory vaccination that ideas for requiring the shots statewide.

Merck donated $5,000 to the governor's re-election campaign and Gov Perry said the contributions were just a small share of the $24 million he raised and had no effect on his decision. Earlier this week, Merck suspended its lobbying campaign for laws requiring use of Gardasil.