A decade after United Kingdom health officials first implemented routine human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination in adolescent girls, the government has extended their immunization program to include boys, based on the conclusion of a five-year evidence review by scientists on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI).
The Department of Health and Social Care initially sparked fears England would not be following suit when it said it was only "considering" the committee's advice.
The vaccine not only protects men from HPV-related diseases - such as oral, throat and anal cancer - but also helps reduce the overall number of cervical cancers in women, though a process known as "herd immunity".
Boys in Northern Ireland should be included in a vaccination scheme created to prevent cancer, a charity has said.
This new move will mean more than 400,000 boys in England will benefit every year.
'Any vaccination programme must be firmly grounded in evidence to ensure that we can get the best outcomes for patients, but as a father to a son, I understand the relief that this will bring to parents.
The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has commenced a national public consultation on offering the HPV vaccine to boys. Whilst girls aged 12 to 13 are eligible for the vaccine, it does not go far enough. "We can now be even more confident that we will reduce cervical and other cancers in both men and women in the future".
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HPV (human papilloma virus) is the term used for a large group of viruses, which can be transmitted through any kind of sexual contact with another person already affected.
'This decision will save lives, ' BDA chair, Mick Armstrong, said.
Thousands of boys in England are expected to be vaccinated under the programme each year, which is likely to start from 2019-20.
The JCVI previously claimed it was "overwhelmingly" unlikely that vaccinating boys would be cost-effective. "HPV infection is also responsible for genital warts, with 90% of these caused by HPV types that are included in the vaccine".
The government also recently introduced a programme of HPV vaccination for men who have sex with men (MSM). It is one of the most rapidly increasing cancers. It released a statement confirming this recommendation last week.
Dr Máirín Ryan continued, "From reviewing the evidence, HIQA has found that the HPV vaccine is safe and is effective at preventing infection with HPV".
'The JCVI agreed that it would undoubtedly be of benefit, but were constrained by the rules of cost effectiveness modelling.