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Is an HPV vaccine for boys cost effective?

An advisory panel for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved the use of Gardasil, a vaccine for the human papillomavirus (HPV), for use in males. A new study, published yesterday in the British Medical Journal, found, however, that a public health campaign to vaccinate boys—in addition to girls, who have been receiving the vaccine in the U.S. since 2006—would not be cost effective.

"What our results imply is for the resources expended, there may be better uses and other health interventions that would increase health gains in the population," Jane Kim of the Harvard School of Public Health, and an author of the study, told Reuters.

The vaccine helps to prevent against cervical cancer and genital warts, linked to certain strains of HPV, in females ages nine to 26. By administering it to males (recommended by the FDA panel also for ages nine to 26), proponents of the vaccine argue, it could protect boys and men from rare anal and penile cancers as well as genital warts—and slow the spread of the sexually transmitted disease.

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