The HSE should offer the HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) vaccine, which can defend against various types of cancers, to teenage boys as well as girls, according to a Cork GP.
Dr John Sheehan, a Fianna Fail councillor, said giving the vaccine to boys could prevent the spread of HPV and therefore, the spread of cancers such as cervical and head and neck. He said that many boys can carry the virus, which can cause cancer when spread or left undetected. The HSE operate a school programme for girls to receive the HPV vaccine, usually at the age of 12 to 13 years.
HPV is the main cause of cervical cancer, which kills around 90 women in Ireland every year, while the vaccine prevents seven out of 10 women getting cervical cancer.
A new campaign, ‘Not Just for Girls’, aims to raise awareness of the importance of boys getting vaccinated as well.
Research carried out has found that HPV is now so common that 80% of Irish men and women will get it at some point in their lives.
Meanwhile, 95% of parents underestimate just how prevalent it is.
“We are seeing more and more HPV-related cancers recently in men as well as women, so it is important to consider vaccinating boys as well as girls,” said Dr Philip Kieran, from the RTÉ One series, You Should Really See A Doctor.
“Administering the HPV vaccine to both boys and girls is the most effective way of preventing a range of cancers caused by the virus, yet it’s currently only available free to girls in their first year of secondary school,” he added.
“I would support the roll-out of the HSE scheme to include boys as well,” said Dr Sheehan.
“If more young men were vaccinated against it, it would prevent the spread of HPV, which is sometimes transmitted sexually.
“It is associated with other forms of cancer, such as head and neck, not just cervical, and vaccinating the wider population would hopefully result in a reduction of these cancers,” he added.
“Ireland appears to be behind other countries when it comes to vaccines and it’s about time we caught up.” The ‘Not Just for Girls’ campaign is being run by Irish Life Health.
The research for the campaign was carried out by iReach in April and involved 1,001 people nationwide.