From September 2019 boys in school year 8 will be offered the free Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine for the first time.

Until now, only teenage girls have been given the free vaccine, with parental consent, which protects against cervical cancer.

This step is likely to prevent around 2,000 cases of cancer in men each year caused by HPV infection. These are cancers of the anus, penis, head and neck. Vaccination should also prevent over 40,000 cases of genital warts in men each year. Vaccinating boys will also reduce the number of cervical cancer cases by reducing the risk of infection in women who missed out on vaccination.

The Mouth Cancer Foundation is part of HPV Action, a group that has campaigned for universal vaccination for over five years until the government’s vaccination advisory committee (JCVI) changed its mind and finally decided that HPV vaccination should be extended to adolescent boys.   

HPV Action believes that the next steps should include a catch-up vaccination programme for older boys and measures to improve vaccination uptake to consistently high levels across the UK.

Worldwide, about 5% of all cancers are linked to the HPV virus. This includes cervical, penile, anal and genital cancers and some cancers of the head and neck – all of which the vaccine helps to protect against. Cervical cancer is currently the most common cancer in women under 35, killing around 850 women each year. HPV is thought to be responsible for more than 90% of cervical cancers, as well as 90% of anal, about 70% of vaginal and vulvar cancers and more than 60% of penile cancers.

Peter Baker, HPV Action’s Campaign Director said: “It’s fantastic news that HPV vaccination will now be offered to 12/13 year-old boys across the UK. We made the case for this for five long years because we know that universal vaccination will save men’s and women’s lives, reduce suffering and in the long run save money too. HPV Action hopes that every effort will now be made nationally and locally to encourage boys and their parents to take up the offer of vaccination in large numbers. HPV Action will continue to make the case for a catch-up programme for older boys who are still at school so they are also protected.