A SOUTHAMPTON cancer expert has welcomed the introduction of the HPV vaccine for boys - but has warned against a limited rollout.

Dr Shanmugasundaram Ramkumar, a consultant clinical oncologist at University Hospital Southampton, has warned warned not extending the vaccine to those over 13-years-old is “misguided” and said the suggestion they would be protected by herd immunity from the female vaccination programme was “naive”.

The human papillomavirus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted infection linked to the majority of cervical and anal cancer cases, as well as vaginal, penile and, increasingly, oral and throat cancers.

Teenage girls have been offered the HPV vaccine in the UK since 2008 but, from this term, the programme will be rolled out to boys aged 12 and 13-years-old in England, Northern Ireland and Wales and for those aged 11 and 12-years-old in high schools in Scotland.

Earlier this month, the Department for Health and Social Care said extending the vaccine to boys aged over 13 and young men would have only a “limited benefit” as older boys and young men were already protected by herd immunity as a result of 10 years of the girls' successful vaccination programme.

Dr Ramkumar, who is on the public engagement committee of the British Association of Head and Neck Oncologists, said: “While no-one can deny it is fantastic news the UK will be introducing a vaccination programme for boys, one must remember we are six years behind Australia in doing so and to not extend it to older teenage boys and young men is misguided.

“It is naive to suggest it would provide “limited benefit” for them as it takes time for herd immunity to develop and it needs almost a 100 per cent uptake of HPV vaccine for girls to acquire good herd immunity.

“It relies on the fact these males will avoid having sexual partners who have HPV and it means they can get and share HPV with any females who haven’t been vaccinated.”

He also suggested that, although the best immune response from the HPV vaccine is obtained in pre-teenage children, it could still even be beneficial for men and women up to age of 45 years.

As part of Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week, Dr Ramkumar and colleagues across the UK will be promoting the Make Sense campaign, which aims to raise awareness of head and neck cancer symptoms and subsequently promote earlier presentation, diagnosis and referral.