Jamie Rae: Vaccination can defuse Scotland’s throat cancer time bomb

SINCE devolution Scotland has used its increased powers to tackle major health issues such as alcohol abuse and smoking.

Today we are calling on the Scottish Government to steal a further march on its UK counterparts by introducing a gender-neutral vaccine to defuse a throat cancer time bomb.

Throat cancer can be caused by HPV (human papillomavirus) which is extremely contagious, infecting 80 per cent of the population. HPV can cause a number of cancers: oropharyngeal, larynx and cervical, anal, penile and vulval.

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In Scotland, some of these HPV-related cancers have doubled in the past 20 years. So what is the solution? There is a vaccine, but as things stand it is only 12 to 13-year-­old girls who are offered the HPV vaccine.

The rationale behind current policy is that boys will be protected by “herd immunity”, but this leaves gay men exposed and is no longer fit for purpose in our modern, highly mobile population.

When I battled throat cancer, the gruelling treatment left me with side effects which still affect me to this day.

I vowed to do everything I could to save others from needless suffering. This year I founded the Throat Cancer Foundation to raise awareness of this pressing issue.

We are campaigning to introduce gender-neutral vaccination to protect all children from HPV-positive cancers and urge the Scottish Government to heed our new petition. Our politicians have the chance to save lives.

And the cost of all this? Figures from Norway put the cost per vaccination at £45. So to treat our 27,000 12-year-old boys would cost £1.2 million – a small price to pay.

We are gathering momentum. So far we have drawn the support of 150 medical experts across the UK and more than 60 UK politicians have signed our Westminster parliamentary motion, including David Miliband, Stephen Dorrell and Frank Dobson.

Australia has just become the first country to introduce the successful Gardasil vaccine which will protect its schoolboys from HPV. It’s time for Scotland to follow suit.

• Jamie Rae is the founder of the Throat Cancer Foundation.