HPV vaccine to be extended to men aged 21 and under in next phase of rollout

Minister for Health calls on young men to avail of the vaccine to protect themselves and their partners

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has called on young men to avail of the HPV vaccine to protect themselves and their partners.

From September 29th the vaccine, which protects against the HPV virus, which is the cause of a number of cancers, will be available to boys and young men aged 21 and younger as part of the next phase of the Laura Brennan Catch Up programme, he told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.

The programme has gone very well to date, he said, with 5,000 registered and 3,500 HPV vaccines administered. The highly effective single-dose vaccine is free and it protects men from several forms of cancer, including mouth cancer, anal cancer and throat cancer.

Mr Donnelly pointed out that men can pass the virus on to women through sexual contact, so vaccination was important to protect partners from cervical cancer brought on by the virus.


“I certainly was surprised to hear the number of men who carry the HPV vaccine. About one in three men carries some strain of HPV, and about one in five men carry one of the higher risk strains of HPV. So it is really important that boys and young men are vaccinated. It protects them and it protects women as well,” he said.

Vaccine rates dropped in 2016 due to “a really sinister campaign of lies and scaremongering,” which, he said “inevitably led to women in Ireland contracting cervical cancer who otherwise wouldn’t have”.

Vaccine rates fell to about 55 per cent, but thanks to Laura Brennan and other advocates, the rate has gone up to about 70 percent. However, the WHO target is 90 per cent.

The rollout is named after Brennan, who died in 2019 aged 26 from cervical cancer and had campaigned for higher uptake of the vaccine.

“Our ambition is to eliminate cervical cancer in this country, a combination of HPV vaccines, HPV screening and earlier detection, and better treatments that mean that that is very much our ambition,” Mr Donnelly said. “And Ireland is being looked at around the world as a leading country in terms of vaccination and early detection and treatment.”