Boys in school year 8 in 2019/20 will be the first to receive the HPV vaccine Gardasil on the NHS.
The expansion of the programme follows recommendations from advisers on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) that there were 'clear health benefits in vaccinating boys'. Girls in the UK have been routinely vaccinated against HPV since 2008.
Boys were not previously included in the immunisation schedule, despite also being susceptible to HPV-related illnesses, on the basis they would be protected by herd immunity. However, this protection does not extend to men who have sex with men, who have a particularly high incidence of anal cancer, and there has been a long campaign to vaccinate boys.
Since the introduction of HPV vaccination for girls, infections caused by HPV types 16 and 18 in 16- to 21-year-old women have reduced by 86% in England. A Scottish study also showed that the vaccine has reduced pre-cancerous cervical disease in women by up to 71%. Similarly, diagnoses of genital warts have declined by 90% in 15- to 17-year-old girls and by 70% in 15- to 17-year-old boys as a result of the vaccine.
Public Health England believes the expanded HPV vaccination programme could prevent more than 100,000 cases of cancer by 2058, including 64,000 cases of cervical cancer and 50,000 other cancers.
PHE head of immunisation Dr Mary Ramsay said: 'This universal programme offers us the opportunity to make HPV-related diseases a thing of the past and build on the success of the girls’ programme.
'Offering the vaccine to boys will not only protect them but will also prevent more cases of HPV related cancers in girls and reduce the overall burden of these cancers in both men and women in the future.'
Public health minister Seema Kennedy said: 'The success of the HPV vaccine programme for girls is clear and by extending it to boys we will go a step further to help us prevent more cases of HPV-related cancer every year.'