Routinely offering teenage boys a vaccination that 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 that has been linked to head and neck, anal and penile cancers.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), the body which advises the Department of Health on changes to the vaccine schedule, is due to meet today to discuss a number of issues surrounding vaccination − including whether to extend the HPV vaccination programme to boys.
Members of he advisory group will also talk about whether the vaccine should be offered to gay men.
A decision could be made at the meeting on whether or not the jab should be offered to teenage boys, but officials may seek more evidence before making a final decision.
The committee will not announce its findings until November when it publishes the minutes of the meeting. It will then be up to the government to decide whether it acts on the committee’s advice or not.
HPV Action, a group of patient and professional organisations, has said that vaccinating only girls is “unfair and inequitable”.
The group said extending the vaccination programme would cost up to £22m a year but in the long run it would save the money spent by the health service, as well as reducing suffering.