HPV Vaccine Is for Boys Too, Pediatricians Say

   on February 27 2012 3:35 PM
HPV Vaccine Should Be Given to Boys
Boys should receive the HPV vaccine as well as girls, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended on Monday REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi

Boys ages 11 and 12 should routinely receive the vaccine against the virus that causes genital warts, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended Monday. The advisory board also issued an suggestion that boys and men currently between the ages of 13 and 21 receive vaccines against human papillomavirus, or HPV.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made a similar recommendation in October.

Over 120 different types exist of HPV, the most common sexually transmitted infection. It causes genital warts and various types of cancer, including cervical, anal, vaginal and penile cancer.

HPV vaccines Gardasil and Cervarix are effective at preventing viral types that cause 70 percent of cervical and genital cancers and effective against 90 percent the types that cause genital warts, according to reports. Officials recommended the vaccines and made them available for young girls and women in 2006.

Public health officials, however, said vaccinating only women wouldn't address the full problem.

Currently, our approach isn't effective from a public health perspective since males are also participants in the transmission of HPV. If we include both girls and boys, we could have a potential impact on HPV transmission, Dr. Michael Brady, chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Infectious Diseases, told HealthDay.

The academy also said that by vaccinating boys, the gay community will be protected from HPV as well.

HPV causes cancer in over 7,500 men every year, according to CDC data. Administering the HPV vaccine could help prevent many of those cases, the academy said.

The vaccine is most effective in people who have not yet been exposed to the virus and also in people between the ages of 9 and 12, according to the CDC. Therefore, the recommendation is for children to receive the vaccine before they become sexually active.

I understand most parents aren't interested in hearing about their children being sexually active, but this is a cancer vaccine that's given for a number of different reasons that has to be given prior to the onset of sexual activity, Brady said.

The HPV vaccines have been contentious due to perceived safety concerns. In September, then-presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann said the vaccine put children at risk of mental retardation.

There are very dangerous consequences [to taking the vaccine], Bachmann told Fox News. It's not good enough to take, quote, 'a mulligan' where you want a do-over, not when you have little children's lives at risk.

The Food and Drug Administration, however, did not report any mental retardation as a result of the vaccine.

The CDC estimated that health care workers distributed 35 million doses of Gardasil in the United States as of June. Officials reported 18,700 cases of adverse effects resulting from the administered vaccine.

Of the effects reported, 97 percent were non-serious, such as pain at the injection site, headache, nausea and fever. However, officials reported 56 deaths in people who received the vaccine.

Despite the deaths, the vaccine is considered quite safe, according to the CDC.

The vaccine is given as a three-shot regimen and costs about $350. The new recommendations mean insurances are now likely to cover the shot in boys, Brady said.

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