(RxWiki News) In 2007, Australia began including the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination for girls in its National Immunization Program. Now, it has expanded the program to include boys.
The Australian government will begin paying for boys aged 12 and 13 to receive the Gardasil HPV vaccine at school, starting next year. Girls have been receiving the vaccine since 2007.
"Ask your child's doctor about the HPV vaccine."
In making the announcement, the Department of Health and Aging said this initiative, the first in the world, is designed to protect the boys from a variety of HPV-related cancers and enhance the effectiveness of the girl's vaccination program.
HPV causes about 99 percent of cervical cancers in women, and the virus is linked to oral, penile, anal and rectal cancers in men.
Minister for Health Tanya Plibersek said, “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,” Plibersek said.
A 2011 study published in The Lancet found that, after the introduction of the vaccine program, the incidence of high-grade cervical abnormalities (pre-cancerous lesions) was reduced in girls under the age of 18.
The observational study looked at national data from April 1, 2007 to December 31, 2009 .
The Gardasil vaccine, developed and marketed by Merck, is currently used to prevent HPV 6, HPV 11, HPV 16 and HPV 18 infection. These four subtypes of the virus cause more than 70 percent of cervical cancer cases.
Cervical cancer is the second leading cancer among women worldwide, according to GLOBOCAN, and the eighth leading cause of cancer-related deaths.
HPV vaccination in the US has been met with some resistance. It's estimated that only 20-30 percent of eligible young people actually have received the vaccine.