The Republic of Ireland looks set to follow the recent decision in the UK mainland to adopt a policy of offering the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine to teenage boys as well as girls.
On 24 July 2018, the UK government announced it was accepting the recommendation from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) to extend the HPV vaccination to adolescent boys as well as girls in an attempt to reduce cancer cases including oral cancer.
In a recent media briefing, the Republic's Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: 'There's now a public consultation underway about that, which we anticipate will come out in favour of doing it too.
'So [health] Minister Harris and I spoke about this in the last couple of days, and we're going to put in train the procedures needed to introduce that next year to extend the vaccine to boys next year.
'There's a cost associated with it obviously in purchasing the vaccine, we need to negotiate payment with GPs and set up all the logistics around it. But we believe it's the right thing to do both in terms of reducing incidents of cervical cancer among women into the future but also HPV infections in men which give rise to anal cancer, penile cancer and head and neck cancers which can be particularly nasty. So glad we have the report and we intend to act on it and make it a reality in 2019.'
Irish Health Minister Simon Harris also issued a statement which mentioned a recently completed Health Technology Assessment made by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) to establish the clinical and cost-effectiveness of providing the HPV vaccine to boys.
'I am very encouraged to hear the HIQA assessment has found that vaccinating both boys and girls would have considerable health benefits and that it reiterates that the vaccine is safe and effective at preventing infection with HPV,' said Harris.
'A public consultation is now underway, which is an important part of the process, and I encourage people to take this opportunity to give their views. The Government is very supportive of the extension of the HPV programme to boys.
'Cervical cancer impacts the lives of thousands of women in Ireland every year. Vaccination teams will be returning to schools in September to administer the HPV vaccine to girls in first year and I encourage parents to ensure that their daughters receive this important life-saving vaccine.'
Although England, Scotland and Wales have all committed to the policy, such a decision is still pending in Northern Ireland, although it appears promising.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health in Stormont, said: 'In light of the JCVI recommendation the department has directed that preparatory work be commenced to allow for the introduction of HPV in boys in Northern Ireland pending a decision by an incoming minister.'
Head of Cancer Prevention at campaigning group Cancer Focus Northern Ireland Gerry McElwee said: 'Extending the HPV vaccination to include adolescent boys is the optimal way to reduce preventable HPV related cancers.
'Cancer Focus NI has advocated extensively to have the HPV vaccine extended to boys. While we are delighted that the long-awaited breakthrough on gender-neutral vaccine has finally come in England, Scotland, Wales and, now, the Republic of Ireland, our focus is now on ensuring that Northern Ireland doesn't miss out.'