An injection that protects against a range of cancers will now be given to boys in England, the government has announced.
The HPV vaccine will be offered to boys aged 12 and 13 in a bid to protect against HPV-related diseases including oral, throat and anal cancers, public health minister Steve Brine said on Tuesday.
The jab will also help to prevent cervical cancer in women through “herd immunity”, doubling down on the effects of the HPV vaccination programme for teenage girls, which was launched in 2008.
Experts believe the HPV jab has reduced the prevalence of some cancer-causing strains by more than 80%, with more than 8 in 10 eligible girls getting the vaccine in 2016/17.
The decision to offer the vaccine to boys follows a recommendation from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, which was published last week.
Tory MP Brine said that, as a father of a son, he understood “the relief that this will bring to parents”.
“The HPV vaccine for girls is already expected to save hundreds of lives every year and I am delighted that we will now be protecting even more people from this devastating disease by extending the vaccine to boys,” he said.
“We are committed to leading a world-class vaccination programme and achieving some of the best cancer outcomes in the world – I am confident these measures today will bring us one step further to achieving this goal.”
The move has been welcomed by health officials and charities, with chief executive of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust Robert Music calling the decision “fantastic”.
“It is fantastic that boys are to be offered the same protection against HPV-related cancers as girls. The girl’s vaccination programme has significantly reduced HPV prevalence among young women which will result in fewer cancer diagnoses in years to come,” he said.
“Extending the vaccine to boys means we will see even more cancers prevented and lives saved.”
The move follows a decision in April to launch a selective HPV vaccination programme for men who have sex with men and therefore do no benefit from indirect protection from the vaccination programme for girls.