A Dundee mother has called for a HPV jab to be available to all school boys in Scotland, as thousands of boys are left at risk.
The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination programme is being introduced to all first year boys in Scottish secondary schools but a catch-up scheme to protect older boys is not being offered.
Figures from the Childhood Immunisation Statistics Scotland show at least 100,000 boys are being missed, increasing by 23,000 for every year it is not offered.
HPV has been linked to the rise in throat cancer, for which Scotland has the highest incidences in the UK, as well as several other cancers.
The vaccine was first offered to girls in 2008, alongside a catch-up scheme, and evidence suggests it has drastically reduced pre-cancerous cells.
However, it is estimated to cost around £450 to provide older boys with the recommended three doses.
Alison Scott, a mother-of-four from Dundee paid almost £800 to have her two sons vaccinated when they turned 16.
Mrs Scott, who works as a sexual health consultant in Edinburgh, said the jab should be available for all boys.
She said: “The main reason was that I’ve got two daughters who were vaccinated and because I work in sexual health, I know how important it was for the boys to be vaccinated.
“They were a bit reluctant at first but one of our friends and colleagues was diagnosed with throat cancer.
“He spoke to the boys to explain that he’d only had three, long-term, monogamous heterosexual relationships, was a non-smoker and was probably low risk, but he’d got it. It became very real for them at that point.
“We’re lucky that we’re in a place that we can afford private prescription and get them vaccinated, it was very important to me that they were protected.
“I know a lot of parents who have paid for their sons to get it so it should be available to all families and not just the ones who can afford it.”
HPV can be spread through intimate contact and signs of infection may not appear for decades. Around 2,000 cases are contracted in men annually.
Throat Cancer Foundation chief Jamie Rae, who was diagnosed with oropharyngeal cancer caused by HPV in 2011, said: “There is a complete lack of equity when it comes to this decision that only boys under the age of 13 should be offered the jab.
“They should be treated the exact same way as girls were when they were offered a catch-up programme back in 2008.
“It means working class families need to decide whether to put dinner on the table that month or to protect their children from HPV.
“This is putting thousands of young men at risk. It’s not good enough.”