PARENTS of 12-year-old schoolboys are being reminded that they will be offered a vaccine for the first time this September to protect against different cancers.
The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) jab will be given to boys entering Year 9 during the first school term - more than a decade after it was successfully rolled out to girls to protect against cervical cancer.
Campaigners in Northern Ireland have lobbied senior civil servants at Stormont to implement the vaccination after it was introduced across the rest of the NHS and in the Republic.
Despite being told such a move required ministerial sign-off, the Department of Health announced in April that it had been given the green light.
In boys, the jab will protect against sexually transmitted cancers including those of the throat and mouth.
International research released earlier this week shows that the success of the vaccination programme in girls could lead to cervical cancer being eradicated in the future.
A Lancet review of 65 studies covering 60 million people showed a fall in HPV cases and in pre-cancerous growth.
The vaccine is being offered in the north as part of the school-based vaccination programme.
Dr Jillian Johnston, a consultant at the Public Health Agency (PHA) said: "The HPV vaccine will help protect your child against HPV infection and associated cancers, including over 70 per cent of cervical cancers in women, and cancers of the mouth, throat, anus and genitals in men and women.
"It is given in the same way as other common vaccines through an injection in the upper arm. The body reacts by making antibodies that will help the immune system fight HPV infection. For the vaccine to work fully, two injections will be needed within a 12 month period. It is important that your son or daughter has both vaccinations to get maximum protection. The vaccine cannot cause HPV infection or cancer.
"HPV is very common and is easily spread through sexual activity. Although it is very unlikely that your son or daughter is at risk of HPV infection at this age, it is recommended that they have the vaccine now because studies show that protection from the vaccine is better when it is given at an earlier age."
Parents will receive information about the vaccine over coming weeks as well as consent forms to return to the school.
Dr Johnston said that even "exciting" that results had already been seen in girls over the past decade - with decreases in pre-cancerous lesions in the cervix and in genital warts.