The HPV vaccine is to be extended to boys from next year, the Taoiseach has confirmed.
An average of 539 cases of cancer associated with HPV infection are diagnosed each year in Ireland; however, the national immunisation programme currently only extends to girls in their first year of secondary school.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said his Government is now working to extend this to include first-year boys following the publication of draft recommendations from the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa).
When introduced, Ireland will join 20 other countries that have already rolled out HPV vaccination for boys, including Australia where the uptake rate is up to 90%.
Mr Varadkar added: “There’s now a public consultation under way about that, which we anticipate will come out in favour of doing it too.”
He said he had spoken to Health Minister Simon Harris in recent days and asked him to put in train the procedures needed to introduce an extension of the vaccine to boys next year.
“Now there is a cost associated with it obviously in purchasing the vaccines; we need to negotiate payment with GPs and set up all the logistics around it.
“So, glad we have the report and we intend to act on it and make it a reality in 2019.”
While three-quarters of HPV-associated cancers diagnosed here relate to women, with cervical cancer being the most common, the Hiqa report found that vaccinating both boys and girls would have considerable health benefits.
Dr Máirín Ryan, Hiqa’s director of health technology assessment and deputy chief executive, said: “From reviewing the evidence, Hiqa has found that the HPV vaccine is safe and is effective at preventing infection with HPV.
“Extending the current girls-only HPV immunisation programme to include boys would reduce HPV-related disease in males and females in Ireland, improving patient-related outcomes and reducing mortality from HPV-related cancers.”