U.K. to offer Merck's Gardasil to boys after years of protests

Advocates praised the move by the U.K. government to expand the HPV vaccination program to boys. (Pixabay)

tivists have railed at the U.K. government for refusing to offer Merck's HPV vaccine Gardasil to boys, but now the government has reversed its stance. 

Based on a recommendation from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), the U.K. government announced on Tuesday that the vaccine will be offered to boys aged 12 and 13 in an effort to protect them against several types of cancer caused by the virus.  

The vaccine has been offered to girls for a decade under the program, and critics have urged the government to offer the vaccine to boys as well. When the government initially decided against expanding the program, it said immunizations in girls would provide "herd protection" for boys. The JCVI has been reviewing vaccinations in boys since 2013.

On Tuesday, one of the groups pushing immunization for boys, HPV Action, said it's "delighted" with the move. According to the group, the decision brings the U.K. in line with 20 other countries that recommend the shot for boys, such as the U.S., Brazil, Canada, Australia and others. HPV Action Campaign Director Peter Baker said in a statement that the decision "means that we are no longer attempting to tackle the scourge of HPV with one hand tied behind our back." 

"This will make a real difference to the health of men and women and it will, ultimately, also save money," he added. 

With the decision, the U.K. says it'll be one of a few countries in the world to offer vaccines to both boys and girls. Last month, Public Health England reported that its HPV vaccination program has driven significant reductions in infection rates among women who were eligible for vaccinations between 2010 and 2016.

RELATED: Gardasil 9 supply running short in the U.K., Merck reports 

Meanwhile, Merck recently reported a shortage of Gardasil 9 doses for private clinics. The company maintained that stocks of its vaccine for the public campaign—Gardasil—remain strong. Gardasil protects against four HPV types, while the newer Gardasil 9 defends against 9. Outside of the U.S., Merck is known as MSD.