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HPV Vaccine for Boys

By on October 25, 2011

All boys aged 11-12 should get the HPV vaccine, according to new recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) 
Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).

“The HPV vaccine will afford protection against certain HPV-related conditions and cancers in males, and vaccination of males with HPV may also provide indirect protection of women by reducing transmission of HPV,” the panel said in a statement.

The impact of the recommendation, if the federal government accepts the panel’s recommendations, is that all insurance companies would be expected to cover the vaccine without any co-pay by the patient. Merck is the only pharmaceutical company with a quadrivalent vaccine — one which acts against four separate strains of HPV — licensed for use in boys and girls.

The latest recommendations would change the advice for doctors from allowing them to give the vaccine to boys and men up to age 21 to encouraging that it become routine. It  is not a mandate. Health officials note the current HPV vaccine rate among girls is disappointing. The committee agreed that in addition to reducing the burden on women and girls, the HPV vaccine showed great promise in warding off anal cancer and genital warts among boys and men.

Nearly 40 million doses of the three-step HPV vaccine have been distributed in the United States and are considered safe. Most common side effects are injection site reaction, headache and fever that are mild or moderate in intensity. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease, with more than 40 types, some of which can cause cervical cancer or genital warts.  Often, HPV causes no symptoms at all. And at least 50% of sexually active men and women will get HPV at some point in their lives, according to the CDC.  While the body can usually clear the infection on its own within two years, certain types, oncogenic strains, can turn into cancers and should be closely monitored.

Increasing awareness of HPV’s role in other diseases, such as head and neck cancers, has given a new push to consideration of vaccinating 
boys and girls, said Kenneth Bromberg, Chairman of Pediatrics and director of the Vaccine Research Center at The Brooklyn Hospital Center. “In a perfect world, immunization of all girls might be the most cost-effective way of preventing HPV disease in women,” he said.

“However, since we do not live in a perfect world, a very strong argument can be made for immunizing boys in order to prevent genital warts in males and the prevalence of HPV-related cancers in both boys and girls.”

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