The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advisory panel on vaccines has recommended that boys and young men be vaccinated against the human papillomavirus (HPV), The New York Times reports. The CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended that boys ages 11 and 12 should be vaccinated against HPV, the nation’s most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) and a known cause of cancer.
The move to recommend the HPV vaccine for boys and young men will influence more private insurance companies to cover the costly three-dose vaccine. Vaccinating all U.S. 11- and 12-year-old boys will cost nearly $140 million every year. Opponents of the vaccine find it controversial because they argue that it condones sexual promiscuity.
The CDC issued a similar vaccine recommendation for girls and young women in 2006. Since then, its vaccination goals have not been met. Only half of eligible women have received the vaccine, and only one third have completed all vaccine doses. About 75 percent to 80 percent of people in the United States will be infected with HPV during their lifetimes.
The panel also recommended HPV vaccinations for men ages 13 to 19 who had not already received all three doses of the vaccine. This is because Gardasil—the HPV vaccine manufactured by Merck—defends against four common strains of virus, thereby offering protection even to young adults who have been infected by one or two virus strains. The CDC supports the use of the vaccine for boys and men ages 9 to 26, as long as Food and Drug Administration guidelines were followed.
While infections do not cause detrimental health effects in most cases, cellular changes triggered by HPV can cause cervical, vaginal and vulvar cancers in women and anal, oral and throat cancers in men and women. About 15,000 instances of cancer in women and 7,000 cancers in men are caused by HPV infections each year. Even though cervical cancer has recently decreased as a result of screenings and vaccinations for women, anal cancer and mouth and throat cancers related to HPV have been increasing.
Gay and bisexual men are especially at risk for negative health effects attributed to HPV. Men who have sex with men (MSM) are 20 times more likely to get HPV-related anal cancer, and HIV-positive MSM are 40 times more likely to develop anal cancer than the general population, according to a Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) statement. GMHC endorsed the panel’s recommendations.
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