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HPV Vaccine: Not Just for Girls Anymore

by Guy McCardle

October 26, 2011

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Donate Human papillomavirus (HPV) is an extremely common virus. Most sexually active people will be infected with it at some point in their lives. At any given time, about 1% of sexually active men in the US have genital warts. The numbers are huge. You might have heard about recent recommendations from the CDC regarding girls receiving the HPV vaccine. Now, CDC recommends boys become vaccinated as well.

Here are some other figures regarding HPV infection in men. Each year in the US alone there are:
  • 400 men who get HPV-associated penile cancer

  • 1,500 men who get HPV-associated anal cancer

  • 5,600 men who get HPV-associated oropharyngeal cancers (cancers of the back of throat including base of tongue and tonsils)

This obviously isn’t just a female-only problem.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has decided that the HPV vaccine should be given to boys aged 11-12 years old. Experts say that vaccinating children young is the very best way to avoid the risk of the cancer-causing virus. The vaccine is unusually expensive. Its 3 recommended doses will cost physicians around $300, but you can expect to pay a couple hundred more at a doctor’s visit. Thankfully, most private insurers will pay for the vaccine since it has been recommended for routine use by the CDC.

In addition to the recommendation that 11-12 year old boys be vaccinated, CDC also recommends the immunization of males ages 13 through 21 who had not already had all three shots. The vaccine may be given to boys as young as 9 and to men between the ages of 22 and 26. Back in 2006 the committee recommended that girls and young women ages 11 to 26 should be vaccinated. Thus far vaccination rates in the United States have been disappointing. Research shows that only about 32 percent of U.S. girls receive all three recommended shots of the HPV vaccine.

The new recommendation "will be a hugely important step in cancer prevention in this country, both for girls and for boys; women as well as men," said Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of the department of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University. Because rates of HPV vaccination in girls have been low, “it's important to vaccinate boys as part of the public health strategy to prevent cervical cancer”, he said.

The specific recommendation is for the Gardasil vaccine, made by Merck & Co?. Inc, which protects against four strains of HPV. The other available HPV vaccine, called Cervarix and made by GlaxoSmithKline, is not licensed for use in males.


Boys Should Get HPV Vaccine Too, CDC Says - Scientific American

HPV and Men - Fact Sheet - US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Panel Endorses HPV Vaccine for Boys of 11 - The New York Times

Routine HPV Vaccination Recommended For Boys - Los Angeles Times

by Guy McCardle

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