Since 2008, schoolgirls aged 12 and 13 have been offered vaccination against the human papilloma virus (HPV) to protect them from cervical cancer.
But delegates at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers’ annual conference warned yesterday there is an “urgent need” to raise awareness among boys about the risks of HPV, especially the chance of developing throat cancer from unprotected oral sex.
HPV can cause a range of cancers, including cervical, vaginal, penile and anal cancer, as well as cancers of the head and neck.
Research released earlier this month claims that the number of people developing HPV-related cancers of the throat and mouth will exceed the number of women who develop cervical cancer caused by HPV by 2020.
Public Health England (PHE) confirmed today that it is considering extending its vaccination programme to thousands of teenage boys.
Conservative MP Mike Freer, who led a parliamentary campaign to have boys and men who have sex with men protected from HPV, told The Telegraph: “The increase in HPV related cancers is worrying and the small cost of the vaccine far outweighs the treatment costs of the cancers that can arise from the virus.
“The idea that boys and men benefited from ‘herd immunity ‘ because they slept with vaccinated girls was out of date.”
Freer added: “Boys don’t always sleep with girls and in an age of mass travel to and from the UK the chances of a boy sleeping with an unvaccinated girl had increased.”
Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at PHE, said: “The HPV vaccine uptake rates in England are amongst the highest in the world, with latest figures showing that around 85% of eligible girls are fully immunised.
“This helps to prevent the spread of this disease in girls and boys.”
She continued: “PHE has been asked by the independent Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) to look at the impact of extending the HPV vaccination programme to adolescent boys.
“We are also running a pilot vaccination programme in men who have sex with men. The JCVI will review the evidence from this work.”
Boots UK announced this week that it will be offering the HPV vaccine for men and women between the ages of 12 and 44, charging between £300 and £450 for the series of injections.