Sunday 21 October 2018

HPV vaccine to be rolled out for boys from next year

Vaccination appeal: Fine Gael TD Kate O’Connell. Picture: Steve Humphreys
Vaccination appeal: Fine Gael TD Kate O’Connell. Picture: Steve Humphreys
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

The HPV vaccine is to be extended to boys next year for the first time.

The vaccine is currently given to teenage girls in their first year of secondary school through a HSE programme.

Earlier this year, a draft report by the Health Information and Quality Authority found there are "considerable health benefits" to be gained from extending the programme to boys, and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said there were plans afoot to extend the vaccine in 2019.

A public consultation would run until September 7 but the Government expected it would also favour extending the programme, Mr Varadkar said.

"We are going to put in train the procedures needed to extend the vaccine to boys next year. Now there is a cost associated with it, obviously, in purchasing the vaccines we need to negotiate payment with GPs and set up all the logistics around it, but we believe it is the right thing to do," he said.

The extension would help reduce incidence of cervical cancer in women and also rates of cancers linked to the HPV virus in men, Mr Varadkar said.

HPV (human papillomavirus) is a family of common viruses that are passed on through sexual contact.

The vaccine protects women from seven out of 10 cervical cancers which are caused by HPV. The virus can also cause cancer of the head and neck, as well as vaginal, vulvar and anal cancers.

The HPV vaccine programme has seen increased uptake in recent years following a dramatic fall due to misinformation about the effects of the vaccine.

In the 2014-15 school year, there was an uptake rate of 87pc but this dropped to 50pc the following year. The HSE mounted a significant campaign to reverse the trend, including a media and social media campaign.

Dublin Bay South TD Kate O'Connell, who recently met one of the co-inventors of the vaccine, urged continued uptake of the vaccine and appealed to people to listen to medical experts on its effectiveness.

"Vaccination of our boys is essential to protect themselves - as well as our girls - from HPV-associated cancers. We need to wise up to the reality that the scourge of cervical cancer can be eliminated in our lifetime - if we put our minds to it," she said.

Irish Independent

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