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HPV vaccine should be given to boys, experts say

October 25, 2011|By Shari Roan, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
  • University of Miami pediatrician Judith L. Schaechter, M.D. gives an HPV vaccination to a 13-year-old girl in her office at the Miller School of Medicine.
University of Miami pediatrician Judith L. Schaechter, M.D. gives an HPV… (Joe Raedle / Getty Images )

The vaccine that protects against a sexually transmitted, human papilloma virus, should be routinely recommended to boys ages 11 and 12, a government advisory committee said Tuesday.

The HPV vaccine is already advised for routine use in girls ages 11 to 12 to prevent cervical cancer. But a panel of health experts said that new data on the Gardasil vaccine’s ability to curb the risk of anal cancer, particular among gay men, warrants adding boys to the list of people who should get the three-dose vaccine.

Moreover, vaccination of boys will help protect unvaccinated females from HPV infection and the subsequent risk of cervical cancer, according to data presented to the panel.

The 13-0 vote in favor of routine vaccination of boys updates a 2009 vote by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, a group that advises the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC officials do not have to follow the committee’s guidance but often do.

In 2009 the committee recommended only that the vaccine -- which covers four strains of HPV -- be made available to any males 9 to 26 years old who want it because it’s effective for preventing genital warts.

Since then, several studies have shown that anal and cervical cancers are biologically similar and that the human papilloma virus is responsible for many cases of anal cancer. The Food and Drug Administration last year approved the vaccine for boys and men to reduce the risk of such cancer.

The vaccine was approved for girls and young women in 2006.

"I think this a major step forward in prevention of HPV-related cancers," said Dr. Joel Palefsky, a professor of medicine at UC San Francisco and director of the UCSF Anal Neoplasia Clinic. "It also serves to equalize the burden of vaccination to not just one gender and recognizes the responsibility  of both males and females. It's a sexually transmitted disease."

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