As of next week, boys aged 12 will finally be offered the vaccine against Human Papilloma Virus, better known as HPV, for free,  Health Minister Chris Fearne announced. 

Up until now, the HPV vaccine was only provided to girls at the age of 12 and was introduced in the government's free immunisation program back in 2013.

According to Fearne, around 20,000 girls aged 12 have taken the vaccine over the past 10 years, with an acceptance rate of over 90%.

The announcement comes nearly a year since the health authorities announced that the HPV vaccine would also be provided to boys. 

The HPV vaccine can prevent cervical, vaginal, penile, and anal cancers as well as genital warts, although most men who get HPV never display any symptoms. HPV is also the most frequent viral infection that affects the reproductive system.

Catch-up progamme spread over three years

From next week, boys aged 12 will receive an invitation to get vaccinated against HPV, along with a flyer with information about the vaccine and virus.

“We will also introduce a catch-up programme covering all boys born from the year 2000 onwards, which will be implemented across the next three years,” he said. 

Fearne said that evidence-based recommendations have increasingly suggested that the HPV vaccine is also provided to boys with the scope of increasing immunity in the community and reducing the risk of new infections. 

He said the cost of the catch-up program will cost the government €2.2 million, while the cost of offering the vaccine to all 12-year-old boys will cost €330,000.

Why is this vaccine important?

Speaking during the conference, Superintendent for Public Health Charmaine Gauci explained that while the virus is mainly transmitted through sexual relations, the vaccine is more effective if administered before people are sexually active. 

“The vaccine still works if it is taken when a person is sexually active, but it could be less effective,” she added. 

She explained that the HPV vaccination is given in two doses, six months apart to 12-year-olds. Children over the age of 15 will have to receive three doses of the vaccine. 

"We had a positive uptake among girls in the past ten years, and we hope to see the same for boys," she said. 

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