Australian boys aged 12-15 are slated to be the first in the world to receive Gardasil, a vaccine against human papillomavirus.
Boys aged 12-13 will be vaccinated first at schools, followed by boys aged 14-15 as part of a catch up program. More than one million Australian teenage girls aged 12-16 have already been vaccinated as part of the free program. The program is expected to reduce the number of new cases of cervical cancer diagnosed every year by 700, according to the Daily Telegraph
The vaccine is capable of protection against approximately 70 percent of cervical cancers caused as a result of infection by HPV. Boys cannot develop the cancer, but are able to carry the virus and develop genital warts.
"We know that vaccinating boys will protect them from cancer and genital warts, and reduce the rates of cervical cancer among women," Health Minister Tanya Plibersek said, the Daily Telegraph
reports. "If there was something you could do now, as a parent, that would protect your children from a range of cancers and disease in the future when they are adults, wouldn't you do it?"
New research suggests that the vaccine may also protect both sexes from other types of cancer, including those affecting the tonsils. The HPV virus has also been linked to the development of cancers of the anus, penis, mouth and throat.