A federal government advisory committee voted Tuesday to recommend that boys and young men, from ages 11 to 21, be vaccinated against the human papilloma virus, commonly referred to as HPV.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices says the vaccine series can be started as early as age 9.
Twelve members of the committee voted in favor of a recommendation that 11- and 12-year-old boys be vaccinated; one member abstained.
A separate vote involving males age 13 to 21 was split. Eight voted for it; five voted against, and one abstained. The same recommendation said males age 22 through 26 may be vaccinated.
HPV is the No. 1 sexually transmitted disease in the United States. At least 50% of sexually active people will get it at some point in their lives.
The HPV votes took place as part of the advisory committee’s meeting in Atlanta, Georgia.
The HPV vaccine is already recommended for females between the ages of 9 and 26 to reduce the risk of cervical cancer. The CDC recommends girls get the vaccine at age 11 or 12.
The FDA approved the first HPV vaccine, Gardasil, back in 2006. The second vaccine, Cervarix, was approved in 2009.
The vaccine is given in three doses. Gardasil also protects against most genital warts and has been shown to protect against anal, vaginal and vulvar cancers, all of which are associated with HPV, according to the CDC.
Although the vaccine has been approved for males since 2009, it hasn’t been as heavily promoted for them.
One reason for the push now is that girls aren’t getting vaccinated in the numbers doctors expected. “If the boys are also immunized, it reduces the transmission back and forth,” said Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of the Department of Preventative Medicine at Vanderbilt University, who attended the CDC meeting as an adviser but not a voting member.
By receiving the vaccine, boys will also be protected against cancers of the penis and rectum. Also, there is growing evidence of HPV causing the recent increase in head and neck cancer. A study released earlier this month found approximately 70% of all oropharyngeal cancers are caused by HPV infection. The HPV vaccine protects against both, according to Schaffner.
Earlier this year, the American Academy of Pediatrics began including the HPV vaccine on its list of recommended vaccines for boys.
The HPV vaccine became a political hot potato when Republican presidential contender Michele Bachmann was critical of fellow Republican contender and Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s support of the vaccine for girls. In 2007, he signed an executive order that required Texas schoolgirls to receive vaccinations against HPV, although it wasn’t implemented.
The CDC notes that the Food and Drug Administration has licensed the vaccines as safe and effective. “Both vaccines were tested in thousands of people around the world. These studies showed no serious safety concerns. Common, mild adverse events reported during these studies include pain where the shot was given, fever, dizziness, and nausea,” according to the CDC website.
This news story was resourced by the Oral Cancer Foundation, and vetted for appropriateness and accuracy.