In a world first, the Australian Government will begin vaccinating boys against strains of the Human Papilomavirus (HPV) that are known to cause cervical cancer in women and oral, penile and anal cancers in men.
Australian schoolgirls have been receiving the Gardasil HPV vaccine since 2007 but the drug was not being subsidised for boys, meaning that a course of the drug was costing parents who wished to immunise their sons many hundreds of dollars.
However, following an announcement by the Australian Health Minister Tanya Plibersek, boys aged 12 and 13 will start receiving the vaccine as soon as next year.
‘Every parent wants their child to be healthy and that is why the Australian Government is delivering the best protection we have against HPV related cancer through this vaccine,’ Plibersek said on Thursday.
‘By building on Australia’s world-class immunization program, we’re stopping preventable HPV related disease and cancers, and that makes a difference to the quality of life of our families.
‘Already the HPV vaccine has had an impact – significantly reducing the number of lesions that lead to cervical cancer amongst women in the vaccinated age group. It is estimated that a quarter of new infections will be avoided by extending the vaccine to boys.’
HPV, which causes genital warts but is often symptomless, is so common and virulent that 80 percent of people will contract a strain of it during their lifetime, and gay men are at much greater risk than heterosexual men of developing oral and anal cancers caused by the virus.
It is expected that 87,000 boys will be immunized in the program’s first four years at a cost of $20 million.