In the lead up to Christmas NHS Health Scotland is encouraging Scotland’s S1 school children to learn about the HPV vaccine being provided to boys and girls this academic year, and gift a vaccine for a child in a developing country through UNICEF by completing Kids Boost Immunity (KBI) lessons.

KBI is a free online WHO-accredited education resource that links to Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence around health, social studies and science. It includes lessons and quizzes on a variety of topics including global inequality, evaluating online sources of information and vaccines (including the HPV vaccine). S1 teachers received information about the resource in September and are being encouraged to conduct lessons with their classes now, leading up to the time that HPV consent forms are sent home, to support informed consent and boost HPV vaccine uptake.

Every S1 pupil, regardless of gender, can now get the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine in school for free. Evidence is clear that the HPV vaccine is safe, helps protect both boys and girls from HPV-related cancers and can save lives.

Nuala Healy, Organisational Lead for Screening and Immunisation at NHS Health Scotland, said:

“WHO has identified vaccine hesitancy as one of the top 10 threats to global health. With the increased spread of misinformation about vaccines online, it is important that all young people and their parents learn how to evaluate sources of information and are provided with evidence-based information about immunisation.

“Kids Boost Immunity helps young people to do this in a fun and engaging way, rewarding their learning with the opportunity to provide a life-saving vaccine to a child in another country.”

The teaching resource is part of a variety of NHS Health Scotland resources to raise awareness of the extension of the HPV school immunisation programme to S1 boys. These also include an information leaflet, parent letter and consent form, and posters for schools and community settings.

HPV is a common virus which can be caught through intimate sexual contact with another person who already has it. More than 70% of unvaccinated people will get it at some point in their life.

People often have the virus without knowing it as there are usually no symptoms and can unintentionally pass HPV on to others. Most people who have HPV clear the virus from their body, but others may develop a range of cancers in later life. These include head and neck cancers (which are most common in men), cervical cancer, anogenital cancers and genital warts.

NHS Boards have started to deliver the national ‘gender neutral’ HPV immunisation programme in schools.

Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer Catherine Calderwood said:

“I welcome the launch of the World Health Organization accredited initiative Kids Boost Immunity as a new approach to vaccine education in Scotland’s schools.

“It is an excellent initiative that will support the HPV vaccination programme and pair local learning with global reward as Scotland’s school children are encouraged to earn a vaccine for a child in a developing country as they learn.

“I welcome the fact that Scotland will now offer the HPV vaccination to boys in S1. Evidence has shown that high uptake of the HPV vaccine among girls has reduced levels of cancer-causing HPV in young women in Scotland by 90%.

“Extending the vaccination to S1 boys will help to further reduce diagnoses of HPV related cancers and save lives in years to come. I would encourage all those who are eligible to take up the offer of vaccination.”