LONDON, Apr 12: Schools should urge boys – and not just girls – to have a controversial vaccine to protect them from cancer, teachers said yesterday.
All teenage boys should be encouraged to have the vaccine to counteract a rise in cancers linked to the human papilloma virus, they demanded.
HPV can cause cervical cancer in women and a wide range of other cancers in men, yet only girls are routinely vaccinated against it.
Campaigners say the vaccination programme is discriminatory and will soon mean male cancers caused by the virus will outstrip those occurring in women.
Public Health England last night said it was now reviewing whether to extend the HPV vaccination programme to adolescent boys following a pilot scheme for gay men.
Members of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers said that in the meantime they wanted schools to encourage boys to explore the option of getting themselves vaccinated.
This week Boots announced it would vaccinate anyone of either sex under the age of 44 for a fee of between £300 and £450.
But critics say it is unwise to promote the vaccine further following a number of cases in which girls have become ill or even paralysed in what parents say have been severe reactions.
Two of the many strains of HPV are known to cause cancer and are commonly passed on through sex or oral sex.
In women it is thought to be the cause of around 2,790 cases of cervical cancer annually, but it is also responsible for more than 2,000 cases of cancer in men.
Since 2008 girls aged 12 and 13 have been routinely vaccinated at school in an effort to protect them before they become sexually active. Health bosses believe this also protects boys because they cannot contract the virus from an immunised girl.