Schoolboys should be vaccinated against a virus to help protect them against some types of cancer, a group of health organisations have said.
Boys should receive the HPV jab which protects against the human papilloma virus, which has been linked to a number of cancers including oral cancer.
In 2008 the HPV vaccination programme was launched in England to vaccinate girls aged 12-13 to help prevent cervical cancer.
HPV Action, a group representing 25 patient and professional bodies, is calling for the vaccine to be extended to boys as well as girls. It said that HPV is a “real and rapidly growing health threat to UK men”.
A poll of 1,300 British parents found that almost two thirds, 64%, were in favour of the vaccine being offered to boys, a spokesman said.
The organisation estimates that rolling out the programme to include 367,000 boys a year would cost around £24m a year.
“Vaccinating girls alone is not enough to tackle HPV: men can still get the virus HPV from unvaccinated women from the UK and other countries or from other men,” said HPV Action’s campaign director Peter Baker.
“It is simply unfair to deny boys in the UK the same level of protection as girls or as boys in Australia and other countries where both sexes are now routinely vaccinated. HPV vaccination is one of the easiest ways of preventing cancer.”
In October 2013, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) agreed to set up a sub-committee on HPV vaccination to assess, among other issues, the question of extending the programme.
A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “More than 80% of girls are now vaccinated against HPV however we recognise that the current vaccination programme does not offer protection against HPV related cancers for gay men.
“Which is why the JCVI has set up a sub-committee to assess whether the programme should be extended to adolescent boys, men who have sex with men, or both.”
Actor Michael Douglas hit the headlines in 2012 after he said his battle against throat cancer was caused by performing oral sex. The 69-year-old claimed his stage-four cancer was linked to the virus.
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