The human papilloma virus (HPV) jab that protects against cervical cancer will be offered to boys, the government has announced.
Public health minister Steve Brine said the vaccination programme will be extended to boys aged 12 to 13 in England – a decade after it was introduced for girls.
It comes after Scotland, Wales and Ireland also made the decision to offer boys the jab following a recommendation from the joint committee on vaccination and immunisation (JCVI).
There are hundreds of strains of the human papilloma virus, and most are harmless. Around 12 types can cause cancer.
Mr Brine said he was “delighted” that more people will be protected from the “devastating disease” by giving boys the vaccination.
Girls aged 12 to 13 are routinely offered the jab and it is free on the NHS up until their 18th birthday.
The vaccination will protect boys from HPV-related diseases including oral, throat and anal cancer – as well as helping to reduce the number of cervical cancers in women.
“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,” Mr Brine said.
Vaughan Gething, cabinet secretary for health and social services in Wales hopes that by offering the HPV vaccination to boys, it could “help reduce the number of cases of HPV related cancers and save lives in years to come”.
Dr Mairin Ryan of the health information and quality authority (HIQA) in Ireland said that the HPV vaccine was found to be safe and effective at preventing infection with HPV.
“No treatment exists for HPV infection, so the focus must be on preventing those at risk from acquiring the virus,” she said.
The girls’ programme has already reduced the prevalence of the main cancer-causing types – HPV16 and 18 – by more than 80%.
Extending the vaccine to boys will result in more cancers prevented and lives saved, according to Robert Music, chief executive of Jo’s cervical cancer trust.
“The girls’ vaccination programme has significantly reduced HPV prevalence among young women which will result in fewer cancer diagnoses in years to come,” he said.