Many still unaware of HPV risk as vaccine to be rolled out for boys
The HPV vaccine for boys will be rolled out next month with parents being urged to protect their sons from cancer - but research highlights 75pc don't understand what the virus is.
The vaccine was introduced for schoolgirls in 2010, and the Irish Cancer Society labelled the plan to finally immunise boys almost a decade later as a move towards "health equality".
However, new research found 75pc of people don't fully understand just what is HPV - human papillomavirus.
The common sexually transmitted virus affects 80pc of the population, yet there's a lack of awareness regarding the infection.
GP Phil Kieran, from Cork city, said: "There's still a lot of unfounded doubts about what the vaccine does and what the virus is.
"There was a lot of misinformation spread about potential risks with taking the vaccine but it's been conclusively proved to be safe.
"We should be introducing boys to the vaccine to reduce the risk of cervical cancer to women also.
"I think originally it was viewed as cost-effective to only vaccinate girls, but it was leaving boys unprotected.
"And if we had the two together, there could have been a wider debate because it is vitally important to protect boys.
"As a father of two boys, if the vaccine had not been available in school by the time my sons turned 12, I would have paid to have them vaccinated."
Most HPV infections have no noticeable symptoms and more than 90pc are cleared by the body's immune system. However, some will develop infections that need treatment.
According to the behaviour and attitudes survey, 70pc agreed both sexes should be vaccinated. But just 2pc surveyed were aware of just how common HPV is.
Almost 32pc were unaware HPV is transmitted via skin-to-skin contact, while 21pc believed the HPV infection can't be passed from one person to another.
Averil Power, CEO of the Irish Cancer Society, said: "There's good public awareness of the HPV vaccine for girls, thanks to the late Laura Brennan who illustrated the fact HPV can cause cervical cancer in women.
"But not enough people realise it can cause penile, anal, head and neck cancers in both men and women."
The HSE will offer the HPV9 vaccine to all first year boys at second level schools.
Parents will be sent consent forms from schools regarding the immunisation programme.