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Boys could be given anti-cancer jab

Offering teenage boys a vaccination which is currently only given to girls to protect against some types of cancer could come a step closer today as scientific experts meet to discuss the prospect.

In 2008 the HPV vaccination programme was launched in England for girls aged 12-13 to help prevent cervical cancer. Campaigners have been calling for teenage boys to receive the jab, which protects against the human papilloma virus thath has been linked to head and neck, anal and penile cancers.

A sub-committee from the UK's Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), an advisory body to the Department of Health, will meet to discuss whether to extend the HPV vaccination programme to boys. They will also talk about whether the vaccine should be offered to gay men.

Their findings will be presented at the main JCVI meeting next month, when the main committee will discuss the issue. But it is not yet known when a final decision will be made about the measure.

HPV Action, a group of patient and professional organisations, has said that vaccinating only girls is "unfair and inequitable".

Earlier this month, HPV Action campaign director Peter Baker said: " It is blatantly unfair that women are protected from the cancers and other diseases caused by HPV infection while men are not.

"Men will continue to die from HPV-related diseases unless the Government acts to extend the national vaccination programme to all adolescent boys.

"This would only cost about £20 million to £22 million a year and, in the long run, save the money spent by the NHS on treatment, as well as reducing human suffering."

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