In a world first, Australian schoolboys will get the successful Gardasil vaccine, which will protect them against developing a range of cancers and bolster the effectiveness of the vaccine in women.

Starting next school year, the Gillard government will fund the vaccine for 12 and 13-year-old boys through school-based programs under the National Immunisation Program. Year nine boys will also be able to get the vaccine at school under a catch-up program for the next two years.

Health Minister Tanya Plibersek said providing the HPV vaccine to boys would protect them and increase the effectiveness of the vaccination program for girls.

“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.

“By building on Australia’s world-class immunisation 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.”

An Australian innovation, the vaccine protects against four important genotypes of the human papillomavirus (HPV).

The HPV vaccination program for boys is expected to cost $21.1 million over four years. This will include an information campaign, a vaccine register and monitoring of adverse reactions.

The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee had recommended last year that the HPV vaccination program be extended to boys following a review of its cost effectiveness.

Plibersek said the government would work with all states and territories to implement the boys’ vaccination program in high schools.

HPV is also responsible for anal, penile and neck and head cancers in men.

The head of the Kirby Institute’s sexual health program, Professor Basil Donovan, has been a strong advocate for the vaccine, previously telling the Star Observer that the cancer risk for gay men who were infected with HPV was as great as that for women.

“The risk of a gay man getting anal cancer is as high as the risk of a woman getting cervical cancer before pap smears came in,” he said.

“In HIV positive gay men it’s even higher. It’s not just a matter of infection, its how many infections they have. In lots of studies you find a half a dozen present in an individual at one time.

“If you can get to males before they acquire the relevant type of HPV the efficacy is close to 100 percent. The problem is that we tend to catch HPV fairly early in life, often before gay men are willing to come out to their doctors.”

Further information is available at the Immunise Australia Program website

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