Leo Varadkar has announced the government's plans to include Irish boys in the the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccination.
Boys in Ireland will be able to avail of the cancer-preventing immunisation which is already offered to first year female secondary school students.
The government is hoping to give boys the vaccine as early as next year, after a report by the Health Information Quality Authority (HIQA) recommended the extension of the HPV shot to males.
The HIQA findings published in July 2018, stated that their assessment "found that vaccinating both boys and girls would have considerable health benefits."
Dr Máirín Ryan, HIQA’s Director of Health Technology Assessment and Deputy Chief Executive commented on the evidence supporting the inclusion of boys.
“From reviewing the evidence, HIQA has found that the HPV vaccine is safe and is effective at preventing infection with HPV."
"Extending the current girls-only HPV immunisation programme to include boys would reduce HPV-related disease in males and females in Ireland, improving patient-related outcomes and reducing mortality from HPV-related cancers.”
The Taoiseach addressed the press saying: “Hiqa are recommending that we extend the HPV vaccine to boys as has been done in quite a number of other jurisdictions.”
“There is a quick consultation under way about that which, we anticipate, will come out in favour of doing this too," he added.
HPV is a group of more than 150 related viruses says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Men and women can get a number of different cancers caused by HPV infections, which are generally passed through intimate skin-to-skin contact, added the health body.
Dr Máirín Ryan spoke about the Irish figures in relation to the virus and the benefit of the vaccine.
"On average, 539 cases of cancer associated with HPV infection are diagnosed every year in Ireland, including cervical, anal, penile and oropharyngeal cancers. HPV infection is also responsible for genital warts, with 90 percent of these caused by HPV types that are included in the vaccine.”
“No treatment exists for HPV infection, so the focus must be on preventing those at risk from acquiring the virus,” she added in the July report.
Supporting the Government's decision to heed the recommendation by HIQA, Mr Varadkar said:
“We believe it is the right thing to do, both to reduce incidents of cancer among women but also HPV infections in men which give rise to anal cancer and head and neck cancers which can be particularly nasty.”
The Taoiseach added that he hopes to “make it a reality” by 2019.