Have you thought about getting the HPV vaccine for your daughter, but not necessarily for your son? You wouldn’t be the only one. HPV represents a family of common viruses that are passed on through sexual contact. Despite the fact that 80% of men and women contract HPV at some stage in their lives, the vaccination is still only available to schoolgirls. What’s more, 95% of Irish parents are unaware of the prevalence of HPV, and just under half (47%) would consider getting their sons vaccinated.
This is according to our new research, as part of our ‘Not Just for Girls’ awareness campaign, which aims to promote the HPV vaccination for both girls and boys.
Commenting on the research, Dr Philip Kieran said, “We’re seeing more and more HPV related cancers recently in men as well as women, so I feel it’s important to consider vaccinating boys as well as girls. Administering the HPV vaccine to both boys and girls is the most effective way of preventing a range of cancers caused by the virus, yet it’s currently only available for free to girls in first year of secondary school.”
In most cases, HPV goes away on its own and does not cause any health problems. However there are numerous strains of it, some of which can cause cancer or precancerous lesions.
A simple vaccination works to combat HPV. The benefits are two-fold. Not only does it help to prevent the spread of the virus to others, it also prevents HPV-related cancers by helping the immune system to fight and clear the HPV infection. While these benefits apply to both girls and boys, teenage boys are not routinely vaccinated against HPV in Ireland.
The aim of our ‘Not Just for Girls’ campaign is to highlight the fact that a large number of Irish men are also diagnosed with HPV-related cancers each year, which could be prevented by this simple vaccination.
The research also highlights a low understanding amongst Irish parents about HPV-related cancers in men. Only 8% of Irish parents know that HPV infections are the leading cause of mouth and throat cancers in men. Yet 25% of head and throat cancers in Ireland are HPV-related. People who are diagnosed with HPV are 16 times more at risk of developing head and neck cancers and, on average, 27% of all HPV-related cancer diagnoses in Ireland are in men. In addition to this, more than 99% of cases of cervical cancer in women are caused by HPV, with nearly 300 women diagnosed with it each year.
To combat these problems and to encourage parents to have both their daughters and sons vaccinated, Irish Life Health is offering its members €200 back on the HPV vaccination across a variety of its plans. Liz Rowen, Head of Marketing for Irish Life Health, says: “At Irish Life Health, we want to help our customers be more proactive about their health and wellbeing. We’re continuously looking to create new, innovative services that will be of true benefit for our members and their family’s health. Our research shows that the majority of parents would get their sons vaccinated against HPV and that’s why Irish Life Health offer up to €200 back on the cost of HPV vaccine, for both boys and girls, on a range of our plans. It’s important to Irish Life Health that the whole family is supported to stay healthy.”