A government panel recently suggested that young boys receive the controversial HPV vaccine in order to prevent the sexually transmitted virus from spreading to girls.
On Tuesday, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted on this decision. The committee recommends that 11 and 12 years old boys should receive the vaccinations every year. Additionally, 13 and 21 years old should start receiving them immediately if they haven't yet.
The HPV vaccine was originally recommended for young girls. It serves to protect them against cervical cancer and genital warts. However, some experts also believe that besides preventing a STD, the vaccine could also protect boys from genital warts and some cancers.
HPV is the number one sexually transmitted disease in the U.S. It has been reporter that at least 50% of sexually active people will get the disease one point in their lives. HPV inflicts about 12,000 American women a year, killing around 4,000. The virus causes about 250,000 cases of genital warts each year and inflicting about 7,500 males with various cancers each year.
In 2006, the committee recommended that females 11 to 26 should receive the vaccine, but the amount of vaccinations in the United States did not meet expectations. This is due to the controversy surrounding the HPV vaccine. The vaccine prevents results from sexual activity and that controversy will only intensify with the Advisory Committee's latest findings.
However, some medical experts look past the controversy and whole heartedly support the recommendation.
This is cancer, for Pete's sake, said Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of the department of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, according to the New York Times. A vaccine against cancer was the dream of our youth.
Federal health officials are confident the vaccine is safe. However, there is debate about how long the protection will last and how serious are the side effects.
The bottom line is that not all kids start having sex when they're 13. Mine didn't, I promise you, said Dr. Sandra Adamson Fryhofer, a clinical associate professor of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine and a committee member, according to the New York Times.
Merck, the major pharmaceutical company that makes the vaccine, began marketing and lobbying campaigns to persuade state governments require the vaccine for children in order to enter schools. However, this campaign was quickly abandoned do to the impending controversy. Gov. Rick Perry (R) and presidential candidate received backlash for his decision to mandate the vaccine for girls in Texas.
Partly due to the controversy and misconceptions about the vaccine, onl 49 percent of adolescent girls had gotten at least the first of the recommended HPV shots while only a third had gotten all three.