Northamptonshire schoolboys to be offered vaccine that could 'eliminate cervical cancer'
Boys returning to secondary school in Year 8 will be offered the human papillomavirus (HPV) injections for the first time, 11 years after the vaccination scheme was introduced for girls.
Girls have been offered the HPV vaccine in schools since 2008 to help protect against a common group of viruses that can cause cancers including cervical cancer, mouth and throat cancers, and cancer of the anal and genital areas.
The vaccine is given in the form of two injections. The first one is administered when girls and boys are aged 12 and 13, followed by a second injection between six to 12 months later.
Public Health Minister Seema Kennedy said: "Experts predict that we could be on our way toward eliminating cervical cancer for good" by extending the successful vaccine to boys.
The vaccination programme is run by Public Health England (PHE), the agency that tackles public health issues, and the injections will be offered at schools across the county.
Head of immunisation at PHE Dr Mary Ramsay said: "Offering the vaccine to boys will not only protect them but will also prevent more cases of HPV-related cancers in girls."
Currently, cervical cancer is the most common type of cancer in women under 35 and 99 per cent of cases are caused by HPV.
HPV is also responsible for cancers that can affect men, including 60 per cent of penile cancers and 90 per cent of anal cancers.
The success of the vaccination programme for girls means that by 2018, 80 per cent of women aged 15 to 24 had received the jabs and the rate of HPV types 16/18 infections had fallen by 86 per cent in England.
These types of HPV are responsible for 80 per cent of cervical cancers.
Public 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.
"I would encourage everyone who is eligible to take up this potentially life-saving vaccine."
The National Cancer Director at NHS England, Cally Palmer, added: "By extending the HPV vaccine to boys, the NHS is taking an important step forward in our fight to prevent cancer.
"More people will be better protected, and the vaccine could help to eliminate cervical cancer in this country."
The HPV vaccine is free from the age of 12 until a child's 18th birthday.
Public Health England advises that the earlier a child is vaccinated, the better, because the effectiveness can decrease with age and exposure to HPV through sexual activity.